“He’s quite an eccentric,” muses Zachary Quinto of his character Harold in “The Boys in the Band.” The actor performed the seminal gay classic in a Tony winning Broadway revival before filming a new film adaptation for Netflix. “Figuring out his specific brand of eccentricity was really the joy of the rehearsal process,” says Quinto. Watch the exclusive video interview above.
In the film, a group of gay friends gather in the Manhattan apartment of Michael (Jim Parsons) in 1968 to celebrate Harold’s birthday. Quinto gets to make a grand entrance as the flamboyant birthday boy and holds court at the party by riffling off classic sassy zingers by the late playwright Mart Crowley. Of the heightened language that Harold employs, Quinto explains that “there is a kind of bombastic, extroverted, performative quality to Harold. And it’s rooted, I think, in a deep psychological truth.” The actor realized that Harold was turning “his self loathing into power.” Operating from that place made it easy to make the elevated one liners feel grounded in reality.
Luckily, the cast got along wonderfully on set. “We relish in the cattiness of our characters because we love each other so much in real life,” admits Quinto. The actor believes that for the men depicted in the film, “that cattiness is rooted in love… it’s a bunch of guys who are reflecting the way the world treats them.” These men took the judgement they faced in a pre-Stonewall America and turned it inward towards the friends they cherished most.
Harold is of course based on Crowley’s real life friend Howard Jeffrey, a celebrated choreographer and dancer. Quinto was lucky enough to discuss that friendship with Crowley during both the Broadway run and filming of this movie. “Having Mart be a part of the process allowed me to understand how two people could be so hateful toward one another in one breath and so reliably there for each other in the next,” Quinto explains. He also learned one of the most enduring mysteries of “The Boys in the Band” from the late writer: what Michael had engraved on Harold’s picture frame. But that’s one secret the actor is keeping for himself.
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