‘Boys in the Band’ cast says gay slurs hurtful, but necessary for authenticity

Revisiting Mart Crowley’s seminal 1968 play “The Boys in the Band” in a new movie adaptation gives Netflix audiences a glimpse into early struggles of the gay community and the offensive, hurtful language of the era. (Sept. 30)

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Please come in.

Same old tired fairies you've seen around since day one.

ROBIN DE JESUS: This is going to be fun.

JIM PARSONS: It's ugly. And none of those words were ever uttered by me without a severe amount of trepidation and a sick feeling in your stomach going into it. Actually, you know what? There'll be seven counting Harold and you and me.

MATT BOMER: Are you calling me a screaming queen or a tired fairy? I was very shocked in rehearsals when we first started using the language. And there are certain slurs that hit me every performance, particularly interactions between Michael and Bernard.

JIM PARSONS: They'll be six tired screaming fairy queens and one anxious queer.

MICHAEL BENJAMIN WASHINGTON: The language for me is part of what's so hard to hear and to take, but it's what makes the story truthful and authentic. It's like if you're setting a play in 1968 and you have a black character and we're going to pretend like he's not black, then you're not telling the truth. Just as if I wrote a play about 2020, but Black Lives Matter doesn't happen. I just wanted to tell him that, to tell him that I. I love him.

JOE MANTELLO: My intention is not to cause anyone pain by using words that are to brutalize someone. And yet, I, my responsibility is to the story. And the story is, this is the cost of oppression. It allows you to act in a way that is inhumane.

ROBIN DE JESUS: Mary, take me home. These queens are crazy.

MATT BOMER: It wasn't until we did it on stage for that first preview audience and I heard a guttural gasp the first time one of these slurs was used, that I remembered and realized how powerful they really are.