Actor Charlie Carver is part of an all-gay cast starring in Netflix’s adaptation of The Boys in the Band, the legendary play depicting a group of gay men throwing a small birthday party. The project couldn’t be a more perfect fit for Carver, who has faced homophobia and femphobia throughout his career, and even publicly came out as a result of it.
When it premiered Off-Broadway in 1968, The Boys in the Band was hailed for it’s groundbreaking depiction of gay life. There was nothing sensationalized or scandalous about it, it was just depicting normal life for gay men at the time. It helped usher in a new wave of queer media that was able to focus on the intimate moments in queer lives.
That celebration of the normalcy of being gay is something that resonates with Carver. At an Emmy party five years ago, a then-closeted Carver was talking to another gay man he had worked with when the man confronted him and told him he needed to do a better job at hiding his gayness and that he was too effeminate.
“I was told that I needed to ‘get it under control’ around people in the business,” Carver told Variety in a recent interview. The encounter didn’t end there. When Carver was waiting for his car at the valet, the same coworker approached him again. When he asked the man to clarify his earlier comments, he slapped Carver across the face.
“It wasn’t playful, but intentional, pointed and meant to be instructive,” Carver said. “I told him that if he ever touched me again, I would name him.” The night could’ve been a dark one for the actor, but he says it gave him a renewed confidence to be himself. “That was the moment when I said to myself, ‘I can’t do this. I cannot police myself in that way,” he said. He came out publicly a few months later in January of 2016.
Carver talked more about the homophobia and policing he dealt with in Hollywood in the Netflix documentary The Boys in the Band: Something Personal. For Carver, the problem was a personal one, but also one he could see affecting other actors like him.
“I got to a point in the business where I felt like I was suffering and then I felt like I had to keep part of myself hidden,” Carver says in a conversation with Boys in The Band writer Mart Crowley. “And I knew other people working the business who were suffering and that they were hiding their true selves, or getting set up on fake dates by their manager and stuff like that.”
Carver saw the pressure to stay closeted and policing as a way to hide the truth from audiences, especially from young audiences, and he didn’t want to be a part of that. ‘“You’ve spoken about how Boys in the Band was sort of born out of your frustration with the business and with the world,” he said to Crowley in the doc, “and my coming out was kind of like that for me too.”
You can watch Carver in both The Boys in the Band and The Boys in the Band: Something Personal streaming on Netflix now.