Matt Bomer—or Boner as some like to affectionately call him—has been winning the hearts of fans for the past five years as Neal Caffrey on USA's White Collar. Often compared to Cary Grant, Bomer's character often charms women (and gay fans) with his dazzling smile and slick wardrobe.
With HBO's adaptation of The Normal Heart, Bomer is presenting a new side of himself—one that's more raw, more exposed. As Felix Turner, the actor comes full circle with Larry Kramer's play, which first exposed Bomer to a world outside of his small-town Texas upbringing. In the cover story with contributing editor Shana Naomi Krochmal, Bomer opens up about his personal transformation in playing Turner, how he rallied for a part that was a far cry from White Collar, and what it means to play gay on screen.
How Larry Kramer's play transformed his world view: “I was relatively sheltered. It wasn’t until I read Larry’s work that I had any kind of understanding as to what was really going on in the world around me. It just lit this fire in my belly.”
How the role of Felix Turner changed him: “You’re really lucky as an artist if you get a role that changes you as a person. It taught me how to access myself on a completely different level as an artist. And it blew my mind in terms of the level of unconditional love between Ned and Felix — my goodness, if these people could incorporate this into their lives, under their circumstances, why can’t I?”
On Kramer's lasting effect: “Larry is somebody we wish we had as our best friend growing up — as uncomfortable as he may have made us sometimes. Activism isn’t beautiful and easy, or a bunch of people getting together and picketing; it’s a lot more complicated and difficult than that. And true love — the most unconditional love — can be experienced by anyone, regardless of their sexuality.”
On coming out to his parents: “I’m not going to lie and say it was a bed of roses. But with the gift of time and grace, my parents chose love. And I think it’s important for people to know that. We always hear, ‘Oh, it gets better, it gets better,’ and [then] so many people go, ‘No it doesn’t.’ I feel lucky to say that, yes, sometimes it does.”
On being out (or lack thereof) in the media: “It wasn’t anything I really endeavored to hide but a lot of stuff I would do would be these fashion spreads where there’s one paragraph about you at the end.”
His surprise to the media's reaction to his "coming out": “I frankly did not think people would be that interested. I certainly didn’t think it was going to be on the CNN ticker.”
On his wedding to his partner and husband Simon Halls: “It was very chill, very small — only our nearest and dearest. There’s a security, a validity of knowing that it’s legal. It’s hard to put into words. It’s just a feeling, I guess — something about saying vows in front the people around you who love and support you. I think it was good for our family.”
On what being out means to his kids (and not to his career): “I’m so thankful to have been born in the times that we live in. I felt a responsibility to Simon and to our kids to be able to live with integrity and not have some strange split psychology of This is who my dad is at home, and this is who he is to the public. That trumped any type of professional repercussions that it could have had. And — not by my own volition or choice — I’ve been playing exclusively straight characters for the first 10 years of my career. Whatever happens from this point on says a lot more about the business and society than it does about me.”
How fatherhood has changed him for the better: “[It] just changed everything. There’s a level of love that really dissolves a lot of egotism and self-absorption. I mean — don’t get me wrong, I have my moments. But at a certain point in my life, my whole day would have been about this interview. Now it’s a small part of a day that also includes a drop-off at school in the morning and baseball practice and a lot of other things that take precedence.”
Why a play—not a musical—might be his next move: “I appreciate that medium profoundly and I have the utmost respect for it, but it’s not very shiny to me. I’d much rather do Rocket to the Moon, by Odets, or Orpheus Descending, by Williams, or something like that.”