As the star of USA's hit drama White Collar, Matt Bomer is considered one of today's most charismatic and promising young TV stars. Bomer, even as a busy in-demand actor and a father of three children, is mindful of his social responsibility and will appear in this evening's one-night-only staged reading of 8. The play, written by Milk's Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and directed by Tony Award-winner Joe Mantello, is based on the trial surrounding California's notorious Proposition 8, which made same-sex marriage illegal. The play's dialogue is taken from actual transcripts from the trial, as well as first-hand observations of the courtroom drama and interviews with the plaintiffs and their families. Bomer will play Jeff Zarrillo, half of a gay couple (out actor Cheyenne Jackson will play his partner Paul Katami) who were the plaintiffs in the landmark trial. Bomer answered a few questions by email about his involvement in the production and the importance of Prop. 8.
The Advocate: How did you become involved in the staged reading of 8?
Matt Bomer: I was asked to be a part of the project about a month ago, and I immediately said yes before I even read the play. I think Joe Mantello and Lance Black are both incredibly talented; but more importantly, it was to raise money for an incredibly important cause.
Why did you want to be a part of the production?
It's sad that in 2011 we even have to discuss the fight for marriage equality in the United States. How can we say that we're a country that grants liberty and justice for all, and yet denies same-sex couples the right to marry? I feel that the generations to come will view this time period in terms of civil rights for the LGBT community as pretty sad and unnecessary. And I know that in my lifetime, everyone American will have the right to legally marry the person they choose and that it will be recognized federally as well as by the state.
What kind of research have you done to better understand Jeff Zarrillo, the real life plaintiff you’re portraying?
I called Jeff Zarrillo and we talked about his life during the trial —what he and Paul were going through, and how he was feeling. It was important to me that I understand how he felt during the actual trial, which is what I'm responsible for depicting. They had to put up with a great deal of intrusion into their personal lives throughout this process, and they remain undaunted. He was incredibly kind and helpful, and he and Paul are truly brave souls.
8 will be performed tonight at New York's Eugene O'Neill Theatre (230 W. 49th St.). Proceeds from the reading will go directly to the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), which funds the fight for full federal marriage equality and supports educational efforts on the freedom to marry nationwide. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit afer.org/broadway8.