Matt Bomer Takes the Lead

Matt Bomer Takes the Lead

“He knows what it’s like to struggle, and he knows what it’s like to be afraid, and he knows what it’s like to have people not believe in you,” Murphy said.

Even as he played these gay roles, he continued on with straight ones, building a résumé that would not have been available to an out actor even a decade before. Murphy cast him opposite Lady Gaga in a season of “American Horror Story,” and he appeared as a Hollywood producer in a miniseries version of “The Last Tycoon.” He also filmed a second “Magic Mike” movie.

Three and a half years ago, he read “Fellow Travelers,” the Thomas Mallon novel on which the series is based, with an eye toward starring in the adaptation. He was interested, but he didn’t really expect it to go forward. “There was a central part of me that has been in the business since I was 18, thinking, ‘Are the gatekeepers really going to give this the budget that it needs?’” he recalled.

But the gatekeepers did. Ron Nyswaner, the showrunner of the series, wanted Bomer for the lead, intuiting that he could play both what Hawk shows to the world (charisma, ambition) and what he conceals (heart, desire, anguish).

“Matt, for all his physical attractiveness and charm, he understands emotional pain,” Nyswaner said.

When I asked Bomer what of himself he had given to Hawk, in terms of both effort and personal experience, his answer was simple: “Everything.” Finally, he is letting the camera see into his soul. In most scenes, Bomer plays two or three emotions simultaneously, some across the surface of his face and others roiling underneath. The show includes several unusually intimate sex scenes, and Bomer gave himself to these, too. With the consent of his co-star and an intimacy coordinator, he even improvised a few unscripted moments, as when Hawk licks a lover’s armpit.

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