It’s not too long now until the Dustin Lance Black written eight-part gay rights mini-series, When We Rise, starts airing on ABC in the US. He’s been at the Television Critics Association Winter press tour to talk about the show, how he believes it’s under attack by the alt-right, how he things Donald Trump might actually like the series, and how he hopes non-liberals will watch it.
He says, “This show is under attack from the alt-right online. But this show is not a war. Every single person in this world is a minority, depending on how you slice the pie, and this show is about how we are connected.”
Black became aware of the alt-right’s efforts when he saw the Youtube comments under the Before We Rise trailer, which quickly became clogged with negative, homophobic, racist and rabidly unpleasant comments (something we pointed out at the time). Variety reports that Black said he also ‘found a YouTube video that breaks down the trailer with a psycho-analysis of Black’s relationship with his own father. As hurtful as it was to watch, Black said he found parts of it amusing. “I thought, ‘This guy is actually funny.’ If he and I met in a bar we’d probably actually get along.”‘
He even hopes there’s room for Trump supporters amongst the viewers, saying, “I think there’s a lot of people who voted for Donald Trump who will love this show. I don’t see this show as only trying to speak to half a country. I think if Donald Trump watches the show he might like the show. We can speak the same language.”
He adds, “As a student of history, we know history is not a straight line; it’s a pendulum,” with the hope that When We Rise can be a call to action for those who hope to ensure the pendulum doesn’t swing too far to the right.
Black also knows the series won’t just be criticised by the right, adding, “You’re going to face backlash from within the community as well as outside, and you have to survive that as well. Whenever you’re depicting a social justice movement, first, you’re allowed to be a supporting character as long as you’re funny. Then you can be dramatic, as long as you die at the end of the movie. But you can live a life of purpose and survive and thrive.”
The show chronicles the personal and political struggles, setbacks and triumphs of a diverse family of LGBT men and women who helped pioneer one of the last legs of the US Civil Rights movement from its turbulent infancy in the 20th century to the successes of today. The period piece tells the history of the gay rights movement, starting with the Stonewall Riots in 1969.
The cast includes Guy Pearce, Mary-Louise Parker, Rachel Griffiths, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O’Donnell, Denis O’Hare, David Hyde Pierce, Michael K. Williams, Charlie Caver and Ivory Aquino. The show will start airing in the US at the end of February.