Pauley Perrette, Rob Reiner & More Join ABC’s Gay Rights Event Series ‘When We Rise’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Rob Reiner Pauley Perrette Phylicia Rashad
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ABC’s gay rights miniseries “When We Rise” has filled out its cast with a slew of A-list guest stars, Variety has learned exclusively.

Rob Reiner, T.R. Knight, Phylicia Rashad, Richard Schiff, Mary McCormack, Arliss Howard, Henry Czerny, William Sadler and “NCIS” favorite Pauley Perrette will appear in the highly anticipated project in undisclosed roles.

The casting news comes as “When We Rise” wraps shooting today in Vancouver.

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The group of guests join “When We Rise” regulars Guy Pearce, Mary-Louise Parker, Rachel Griffiths, Michael K. Williams and and Ivory Aquino, plus previously announced guest stars Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O’Donnell, Denis O’Hare and David Hyde Pierce.

“When We Rise” — hailing from “Milk” scribe Dustin Lance Black — 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 U.S. Civil Rights movement from its turbulent infancy in the 20th century to the once unfathomable successes of today. The period piece tells the history of the gay rights movement, starting with the Stonewall Riots in 1969.

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Pearce will star as LGBT activist Cleve Jones, who joined the gay liberation movement in 1972 and was befriended by pioneer gay rights leader Harvey Milk. Parker will play women’s rights leader Roma Guy, who co-founded the San Francisco Women’s Building, and Griffiths will play her wife, social justice activist Diane, who joined the Women’s Movement in the 1970s in San Francisco. Williams will portray African-American community organizer Ken Jones, and Aquino will play the role of transgender activist Cecilia Chung.

Goldberg will play Pat Norman, the first openly gay employee of the San Francisco Health Department; O’Donnell will play Del Martin, co-founder of the first lesbian organization in the country; Denis O’Hare will play Foster, openly gay Democratic party organizer; and Pierce will play Cleve’s (Pearce) father, Dr. Jones.

Young actors Austin McKenzie, Emily Skeggs, Jonathan Majors and Fiona Dourif will play the younger versions of the main characters in the event series.

“When We Rise” marks a reunion for both Knight and Czerny and the network, as Knight starred in the early seasons of ABC’s long-running medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy” and Czerny played the villainous patriarch in the soapy drama “Revenge.”

“When We Rise” will be exec produced by Black and Gus Van Sant, who is directing the two-hour premiere, plus Laurence Mark and Bruce Cohen. Black, Dee Rees and Thomas Schlamme are also directing episodes. ABC Studios is producing the eight-hour, seven-episode event series.

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