'The Boys in the Band' cast and crew on Rock Hudson's legacy

Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer and the cast of "The Boys in the Band" look back on Rock Hudson's legacy on the 35th anniversary of his death and what it has meant for gay actors. "I'm so grateful for Rock Hudson, and sad for him at the same time," said Jim Parsons.

Video Transcript


ROCK HUDSON: You know why I started to fix the place? I didn't want to say anything until I knew I could make it livable, for us.

ETHAN ALTER: October 2 is the 35th anniversary of Rock Hudson's death. And I wonder just what his legacy is today for gay actors.

JIM PARSONS: It has changed for me the older I've gotten and as I've become an actor in Hollywood myself over the years. I both feel so grateful for Rock Hudson and sad for him at the same time. I mean, he was a real product of the time that he was living in. He was a gay actor trying to make a living in Hollywood, a very successful one. And that for sure meant being in the closet. Having to hide who you are, as the men in this show can attest, causes you to do some hurtful things and some unhealthy living. So I think that he's both a hero and a cautionary tale.

MATT BOMER: I know that I appreciate him. I know that things were very difficult back then. It was a very different landscape. I know that even if he wasn't a role model in terms of someone who was out at the time, he was someone who I looked to and thought, oh, wow he really did it. Even though he's a gay man, he was able to have this great career.

ROBIN DE JESUS: It's less about Rock and more just, I don't ever want to live in a world where the stakes are so high that my survival depends on me compromising myself. He wasn't given the opportunity to come out publicly. But he got the right to express himself through his creativity. And then once that story came out that he was gay, we also got to have some pride in that as well. So I hope that his death doesn't taint his legacy.

ZACHARY QUINTO: I think it's a life that was defined by the time that he lived it. Those contributions to the industry and to film are indelible and inspiring. The sacrifices that he had to make, that were in many ways, thrust upon him, I think are a tragedy of that time.

TUC WATKINS: Here is a tragic example of a man who didn't feel like it was OK to tell the world who he was. And he wasn't wrong. He was a movie star. He had people surrounding him telling him, you can't be who you are. And it wasn't just movie moguls telling him that, it was society at large. It was a time where being who you were and telling the world, was unheard of. And I think it's a real cautionary tale even today when we're told, you're not OK, you can't tell the truth about who you are. And the truth is, we should feel safe enough to tell each other who we are, because that's how we all get better.

MICHAEL BENJAMIN WASHINGTON: I've always talked about the great divide of race in this conversation, that nobody's ever asked me if I was gay. I was just, it's almost passed over. Because if you're not necessarily up for those roles, which I still don't get to read for, most of them, people aren't really worried about who I'm dating. But I've seen a lot of my white male friends who are actors still get the Rock Hudson treatment in 2005 through 2015, I want to say. I think what he was really able to do with his life, is show that he went through that so publicly, and most people knew about it, so that we don't have to repeat it. It does take one to go first almost as a martyr, so that we see how dangerous it can be.

ETHAN ALTER: I always think of that one picture of Rock Hudson with the Reagans and 1984 at the White House the year before he died. And that speaks to the complications of his legacy, doing that at the height of the AIDS crisis. Did you, do you think he could have done more?

BRIAN HUTCHISON: No, I don't think it was his responsibility to do more. I think it was the Reagans' responsibility to do more, and denied that for years at a crucial time. And even though they were good friends with him, they sort of denied him at the end of his life, these experimental treatments. When he died, I think people were woke up a bit and you can understand, wow, this can happen to a Hollywood star someone at the top of his game who is beloved and known for being so handsome. You see someone you know go through that, and what he looked like at the end. And I think it brought a visibility to that, that was powerful.

CHARLIE CARVER: I hesitate to sort of hold him up as kind of the only gay actor of the time, because in some ways, his career choices were a product of a climate that really did not welcome or understand how to have an out actor. I'm grateful for the truth that he lived and shared, and I view myself as part of part of that lineage.

JOE MANTELLO: Without knowing that much about him, I imagine it would be very, very challenging to look the way he looked, to have to exist within the studio system where he had to be secretive, where he was told that being gay devalued everything that he held important. So I don't judge him. And I guess I don't even feel sorry for him, because that seems condescending. I feel, I wish things had been different for him.