×

Guy Pearce, Mary-Louise Parker, Rachel Griffiths to Star in ABC Gay Rights Miniseries ‘When We Rise’

Guy Pearce, Mary-Louise Parker and Rachel Griffiths will star in “When We Rise,” ABC’s gay rights movement event series from writer Dustin Lance Black, Variety has learned.

The project 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.

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. He founded the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and led the National March for Equality in 2009. Parker will play women’s rights leader Roma Guy, who co-founded the San Francisco Women’s Building, and as a public health commissioner worked with others to bring healthcare access to all San Franciscans. Griffiths will play her wife, social justice activist Diane, who joined the Women’s Movement in the 1970s in San Francisco, co-founded the Women’s Building and has worked as an HIV/AIDS nurse and social justice activist at San Francisco General Hospital for 33 years.

Also cast are Austin McKenzie (“Spring Awakening”) as the young Cleve Jones; Emily Skeggs (“Fun Home”) as the young Roma Guy; newcomer Jonathan Majors as the young Ken Jones; and Fiona Dourif (“The Master”) as the young Diane. Still yet to be cast are the roles of African-American community organizer Ken Jones and transgender activist Cecelia Chung.

The highly anticipated project marks a reunion for Gus Van Sant and Black, who worked together on “Milk,” for which the latter won an Oscar for his screenplay. Van Sant is directing the two-hour premiere of “When We Rise,” and the duo will exec produce with Laurence Mark and Bruce Cohen (“Milk”). ABC Studios is producing the eight-hour, seven-episode event series.

“When We Rise” is a passion project for Black, who was raised in a Mormon home in Texas. Since breaking out in Hollywood, he has worked tirelessly for marriage equality and gay rights and spoke of the matter, while delivering his acceptance speech at the 2009 Academy Awards for the Harvey Milk biopic that starred Sean Penn.

“It’s been the honor of my life to research and craft these stories of family, diversity and equality over the past three years,” said Black in a statement today. “To have collaborators of this caliber sign on to help bring these stories to life is a tremendous vote of confidence, and I hope a testament to the relevancy and necessity of our continued march toward justice for all.”

More TV

  • Pinewood Studios James Bond

    Netflix's Shepperton Studios Deal Is Stretching the U.K.'s Production Limits

    Netflix’s huge new hub at Shepperton Studios outside London is a further fillip for Britain’s booming production sector. Amid jitters over Brexit and its effects on the economy, the streaming giant’s commitment is a vote of confidence in the U.K. entertainment industry and a continuing source of local jobs. But the decision by Netflix to [...]

  • BBC ITV BritBox Streaming

    BritBox to Roll Out in the U.K. in Fourth Quarter

    British broadcasters the BBC and ITV have formally agreed to launch their joint streaming service, BritBox, in the U.K. in the fourth quarter of 2019. It will be priced at £5.99 per month, making it the same price as the cheapest Netflix subscription in the U.K. ITV will control BritBox, holding a 90% stake. The [...]

  • Kamala Harris

    Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Face Rematch in Next Democratic Debate

    Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris will have the opportunity to square off again in the second debate among Democratic hopefuls vying for their party’s nomination in the 2020 presidential election CNN, which will broadcast the next round of debates on July 30 and 31, televised a draw Thursday night that decided [...]

  • Jon Wax

    Jon Wax Joins Amazon Studios as Head of Genre Programming

    YouTube’s head of scripted programming Jon Wax is joining Amazon Studios as its head of genre programming, Variety has learned. Wax will take up the position recently vacated by Sharon Tal Yguado. He had joined YouTube in August 2017, heading up drama, unscripted and current programming for YouTube’s premium channel. Prior to that, he had [...]

  • South Park Donald Trump

    TV News Roundup: Comedy Central Sets 'South Park' Season 23 Premiere Date

    In today’s TV News roundup, Comedy Central announces the premiere date of “South Park” Season 23 and Netflix sets the premiere date and offers a first look at “Unbelievable.”  DATES Comedy Central announced that Season 23 of “South Park” will premiere Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 10 p.m. Because the episodes are written and animated so [...]

  • US actor Kevin Spacey (C) is

    Kevin Spacey Shouldn't Be Exonerated in Hollywood Even as Criminal Case Ends (Column)

    The news that criminal charges against Kevin Spacey in the Nantucket groping case have been dropped raises an inevitable question: does this mean he can claw his way back into Hollywood’s good graces? Or maybe more importantly: should it?  Spacey’s rapid descent was startling, even as it quickly followed that of the once untouchable producing [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content