CNN, O'Brien Focus on Gays in America



Soledad O’Brien knew she and her CNN colleagues were onto something after finishing Black in America. The documentary’s premiere coincided not only with Barack Obama’s decision to run for president but with a ground shift in Americans’ thoughts about race. Whether frightened or invigorated by the changes in front of us, it seemed ­everyone was hungry for more information about a group of people whose stories had gone underreported for too long.

But after CNN followed that documentary with another four hours of Black in America and then four hours of Latino in America, it was clear that no program could be as comprehensive as those titles suggested. “People would stop me on the street and ask, ‘What about black people in Africa?’ ‘What about Pakistani people in America?’ ” O’Brien says. “My own mother [who is Cuban-born] said, ‘You weren’t interested in Caribbean black people? Hmm.’ ”

So O’Brien and her team sharpened their focus to one-hour documentaries. Their latest, In America: Gary and Tony Have a Baby, starts with a New York City gay couple’s decision to have a child through surrogacy and then follows the couple until their son, Nicholas, is 6 months old. The show premieres June 24.

When Tony Brown and Gary Spino, both 47 and ­together for 20 years, were first approached by CNN producer Rose Arce about participating in the documentary, they figured they’d be two of many people featured in Gay in America. It was only ­after agreeing to the proposal that they realized they were the program. “That was both frightening and exciting,” Seino says.

At the same time, the project felt like a logical extension of the couple’s longtime activism. “Our work has centered around telling people’s stories,” says Brown, who is the executive director of the Wedding Party, a group that throws high-profile same-sex ceremonies to raise awareness around marriage equality. “When it comes down to it, this is really just about telling our story.”

Tags: television