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Fellow Travelers Included This Real Piece of Gay History in the Series Finale

Fellow Travelers Included This Real Piece of Gay History in the Series Finale

FELLOW TRAVELERS Showtime Matt Bomer Jonathan Bailey
Image: Showtime

“People are forgetting about AIDS, they’re forgetting about the quilt,” Ron Nyswander said.

Fellow Travelers brought a real piece of gay history to the set for its finale.

The final episode of the limited series, titled “Make It Easy,” is now streaming on Paramount+, and the historical drama got to use real pieces of the iconic AIDS quilt to make the scene even better.

In the final episode, Hawk Fuller (Matt Bomer) is visiting the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 1987 for the unveiling of the National AIDS Memorial Quilt where different people who died from AIDS each got their own square on a quilt to show how large the number of real humans affected was.

Hawk, who has been closeted his whole life, uses the moment to come out to his daughter, telling her that the square for Tim Laughlin (Jonathan Bailey) was the square of the love of his life.

The episode uses some CGI and custom-made new squares, like the one for Tim, but many more are real.

Showrunner Ron Nyswander got the NAMES Project Foundation to send him actual squares from the real AIDS Memorial Quilt, including one for Roy Cohn, who helped Senator Joseph McCarthy out hundreds of LGBT+ people in Washington, D.C.

“It’s so large now that it can never be displayed in one place ever again,” he said. “There’s no space big enough. So they send pieces.”

“People are forgetting about AIDS, they’re forgetting about the quilt,” he added. “So [the foundation] felt this was a way to help keep it alive.”

Bomer himself revealed that before he shot the scene, he didn’t know that he’d be seeing the real quilt.

“Well, if they did, I had a monologue in my head from episode 5, so I didn't process it until I got there,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “Honestly, it was probably for the best because I didn't have time to overthink anything. I was really responding in real time on camera.”

“It was one of the most overwhelming experiences I've ever had as a performer and completely immersive,” Bomer added. “It's one of those moments as an actor where you really just try to get out of your own way. The story is already happening. It's alive in you. I think it's such a beautiful, poetic ending to the show. You've been on this massive four-decade arc with these characters and hopefully invested in their lives and their loves, and you realize that Tim was just one of these squares. There are thousands and thousands and thousands more just as rich and interesting.”

The show filmed the National Mall scene in a field in Toronto where they were planning on creating a quilt completely from scratch before they got real squares. “The gay God was looking out for me that day,” Nyswander said about getting to use the real pieces of history. “They sent a video with how you handle the quilt squares when you unpack them, and when you lay them out.”

You can watch all of Fellow Travelers on Paramount+. The finale will air on Showtime this Sunday at 9pm ET/PT.

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Mey Rude

Mey Rude is a journalist and cultural critic who has been covering queer news for a decade. The transgender, Latina lesbian lives in Los Angeles with her fiancée.

Mey Rude is a journalist and cultural critic who has been covering queer news for a decade. The transgender, Latina lesbian lives in Los Angeles with her fiancée.