Greg Berlanti — the prolific TV producer behind such hits as “Riverdale” and “Supergirl” — couldn’t have scripted meeting his husband better if he’d written it himself. At a 2013 rooftop Pride party, a friend offered to introduce Berlanti to Robbie Rogers, the professional soccer player who had recently joined the L.A. Galaxy. “I’m slightly embarrassed to say this part,” Berlanti recalls. “My friend said to me at the time, ‘I’m going to introduce you to your next boyfriend.’”
They started out as friends. Only later did their relationship turn romantic, after Rogers invited Berlanti to be his plus-one at the ESPY Awards, an event that Berlanti — who doesn’t watch sports — wouldn’t normally have attended. “It happened organically for me, and I just fell in love with him over time,” Rogers says. “If I’m going to fall for someone, I have to get to know them. I’ve never been much of a one-night-stand person.”
Berlanti, who was in his 40s, wanted to start a family — though he wasn’t sure if he’d ever get married. “Because I’m 15 years older than Rob, I had grown up in a time where it was just an impossibility,” he says. “In the moment, I knew I wanted to have children. I always imagined the day I would have kids. And so, when Rob and I began dating, I was beginning to investigate the process of having children. We kind of did it backwards. We ended up having our son before —” “Our wedding,” Rogers says with a laugh, finishing Berlanti’s sentence.
They officially wed in 2017, and had a second child — daughter Mia, who joined older brother Caleb. They’ve noticed how much progress they’ve seen in the LGBTQ movement in a relatively short time. In 2018, Berlanti directed “Love, Simon,” the first teen gay romantic comedy released by a studio. “It’s hanging over my head, that anything else I do, Robbie will never like it as much,” Berlanti says. “That’s not true!” Rogers responds.
Here’s what they had to say during a recent joint phone conversation with Variety.
Before you started dating, what were you like as friends?
Greg Berlanti: We would find ourselves going to dinner randomly on nights that we happened to have free at the last minute — and talking at length.
Robbie Rogers: From the beginning, there was something that drew me toward him. I wouldn’t say I was thinking this is going to be my husband and we’d have two kids together.
And the ESPY Awards were a turning point?
Berlanti: When we got there, he’d brought me a tie clip and a pocket square. Robbie, as I’m sure he’ll tell you, knows quite a bit about fashion and I know nothing. And as he was putting the tie clip on me in the middle of all these people in the lobby, I realized: “Oh wait a second. Maybe he thinks this is more than friendship.”
Before you met each other, did you see yourself getting married?
Rogers: Most of my life, I thought I’d get married to a woman until I was 20-something. And then, I started to realize that maybe there is a life for me where I can be more honest and open.
Berlanti: I think I was a lot more cynical than I realized about it. And deep down, I just really didn’t feel like it was going to be necessarily part of my plan. I always felt like I imagined the day I would have kids.
What do you remember most about your wedding day?
Rogers: We had a smaller ceremony and then a bigger party. I remember waiting by myself in the house, before walking out to Greg, and kind of peeking out the window and seeing him. That’s something I’ll definitely always remember. I’m a very introverted, shy, quiet person. Being able to write down my vows and share them with Greg and tell him how much I love him in front of some of our closest friends and family, I wish I could go back and relive that. I wish I could pause and rewind it.
Berlanti: My mom had been sick with stage-four ovarian cancer. First, we were going to maybe accelerate it. And then she took a turn for the worst, so we put everything on pause. And a few months after she passed, it felt like she would have wanted us to proceed. I wondered if that cloud would be hovering over that day or if it would feel like its own beautiful thing. And it did; it was very healing.
Like a lot of things as a LGBTQ person, it meant so much more than I ever realized. I guess when you tell yourself this may not happen to you for so long, you learn to live without the possibility of something like that. And then when it goes happen, it makes it even more profound, because you never thought you’d get there.
Is fatherhood what you thought it would be?
Rogers: It was not. The day Caleb was born, I was so in love and so obsessed with this little creature and so worried for how I was going to take care of him. There’s so many things that filled my head and body. And in a good way, I didn’t realize how much I would grow. And to be able to watch other men and women couples have their kids, it’s been inspiring.
How did you make the decision to show pictures of your kids on Instagram?
Berlanti: We’re both private people. I’m thinking, “We got to be careful about showing our kids on the Internet.” But I kind of came to a threshold: If I want to post this picture of our children, I’m going to do that. And secondarily, it was a feeling of — I wish there was something like Instagram that I could’ve looked at as a kid. I would have seen the possibility for myself in terms of what I could have in the way of a family one day.
Robbie, when was the first time you saw Greg’s movie “Love, Simon?”
Rogers: I got to be in the edit bay. I remember first seeing a rough cut, like 45 minutes. I was crying. I couldn’t move. I was so emotionally moved by many of the scenes. And then I watched it for like the sixth time with a test audience. I was with some older gay men and they were crying around me. And I started crying.
Do you watch a lot of Greg’s shows together?
Berlanti: Yeah. We’ll watch a lot of first cuts.
How much progress have you seen in your respective fields?
Berlanti: I look around and I see there’s a lot of work to be done. But I’m also really excited by the young voices that are doing it. I’m hopeful about the progress that’s being made.
Rogers: There’s still a lot of fear out there in sports. I really do believe there will be a time when there are more openly gay men and women in the league. By the way, women have been much more courageous than we’ve been. I just wish that I had that courage when I was younger, when I was in the Olympics, to be like Gus Kenworthy or Tom Daley. But it is changing. It’s just happening really slowly. And I’d be lying to you if I said it isn’t a little sad to me to not see it happen more quickly.