Gus Van Sant has joined Dustin Lance Black as an executive producer on When We Rise, an epic miniseries written by Black and greenlit for ABC's 2016-17 season. Van Sant will also direct the first two-hour episode of When We Rise, a passion project for Black that has been in development for two and a half years, based in part on a memoir by AIDS and gay rights activist Cleve Jones.
When We Rise chronicles the personal and political struggles, set-backs and triumphs of a diverse family of LGBT men and women who helped pioneer one of the last legs of the U.S. Civil Rights movement from its turbulent infancy in the 20th century to the once unfathomable successes of today. The period piece tells the history of the gay rights movement, starting with the Stonewall Riots in 1969.
Van Sant and Black last collaborated on the Harvey Milk biopic Milk starring noted Mexican drug lord hunter Sean Penn, with both Penn and Black walking away with Oscars. In Milk, Emile Hirsch portrayed Jones, who was friends with Milk and worked in the Mayor of Castro Street's office as a student intern. After Milk's assasination, Jones continued his activism, emerging as one of the gay community's most outspoken leaders during the AIDS crisis.