When We Rise, a new miniseries by Dustin Lance Black, chronicles the evolution of the LGBT rights movement through the eyes of activists Cleve Jones, Roma Guy, and Ken Jones. But before it premiered on ABC Monday, activists and actors attended a screening at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco.
Among the attendees was former Glee star Kevin McHale, who in the series plays Bobbi Campbell, a nurse turned activist who was one of the first San Francisco residents diagnosed with what would become known as AIDS.
"It was very emotional and heavy being in the room with all those people," McHale told Hollywood Today Live hosts Ross Mathews and Amanda Salas about seeing the series alongside veteran activists. "Even if they're not portrayed in the show, the community was still involved in the movement, so little places would come up on screen and people would be cheering, and people would be booing at certain characters. I think it was the best way to experience that."
Bobbi Campbell was one of the first to come out publicly as a person living with AIDS, and he devoted his remaining years to activism. He appeared on the cover of Newsweek with his boyfriend, Bobby Hilliard, sparking a much-needed dialogue about the disease across the nation. Campbell died of AIDS complications in 1984.
"[Campbell] was a trained nurse, so he was very vocal about [AIDS] and was really trying to figure out what was going on," McHale said. "And he wasn't living in shame and hiding it. A lot of people were really scared, but he was sort of living out loud wth it and trying to be an activist."
In the latest issue of The Advocate,Black discussed the making of the series, explaining he dropped everything else to give "all my time and energy to this. It's been incredibly difficult, but I do think it's perhaps a once in a generation opportunity to not only tell our stories, but to tell [it] to an audience where it might make a difference."
Watch McHale's interview below.