The eight-hour ABC miniseries “When We Rises” premieres on Monday, February 27 and chronicles the civil rights struggle for LGBT Americans, but writer and executive producer Dustin Lance Black wants the miniseries to speak to an even wider wider social justice movement. He told our sister site Variety in a recent interview, “I get very frustrated when I hear young LGBT people only talk about what it is their community needs and only seem to be interested in the work that needs to be done for their community. It’s incredibly shortsighted. You need to understand the interconnectedness. I’m not making this because I’m nostalgic, I’m making this because I think we need it right now.”
Black previously won an Oscar for writing the screenplay for “Milk” (2008) about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician to be elected to public office in California — and who was assassinated in 1978. But in “When We Rise” Black wanted to focus on the stories of less well known figures, including gay rights activist Cleve Jones (Guy Pearce), feminist activist Roma Guy (Mary-Louise Parker) and black community organizer Ken Jones (Michael Kenneth Williams).
Diversity behind the camera was also important to Black, who enlisted “Milk’s” Gus Van Sant, queer black filmmaker Dee Rees (“Pariah,” “Bessie”) and “token straight man” Thomas Schlamme (“The West Wing,” “The Americans”) as directors. And demonstrating such unity is especially important in this day and age. “I think what we’re hearing particularly from the Republican party is so dangerous,” Black says. “This is going to be more timely than I thought when I started writing it.”