Matt Bomer is making LGBTQ history on Doom Patrol, the streaming television adaptation of the DC Comics franchise about a misfit group of superheroes that originated in the early 1960s.
The actor portrays Larry Trainor (a.k.a. Negative Man), a pilot who must be wrapped in bandages after surviving a horrific plane crash into a mysterious form of energy.
Trainor is a gay male superhero -- a rarity in the media landscape and also a "big reason" that the gay actor wanted to take the role, Bomer said at a Tuesday Q&A for Doom Patrol at SoHo House West Hollywood.
Representation is "so important ... because I'd never really seen a gay male superhero," said Bomer. "What I love most about the character is that even though [his sexuality is] a huge struggle internally for him, it's not the sole thing that defines who he is. He's such a multifaceted character."
"He has so much shadow and so much light that he doesn't even know he has. That's what appealed to me just as much as his sexuality," Bomer added.
On Doom Patrol, Bomer voices Trainor in the present day -- the bandage-wrapped character is physically acted by Matthew Zuk. But Bomer embodies Trainor in flashbacks to the 1950s, when the married father and military man was considered an all-American hero for his brave attempts to break the sound barrier. This PR image contrasted with the reality of the flyboy, however, who (spoiler) had an extramarital affair with a male colleague.
Due to the time period he was raised in, the closet is a struggle for Trainor. It's familiar territory for Bomer, who just finished a run as the character Donald in TheBoys in the Band, a revival of the 1968 play about a group of queer men who grapple with the repression of their era. Greg Berlanti, the gay executive producer of Doom Patrol, had seen Bomer in Boys and thought of him for the part of Trainor.
Berlanti "knew that I had really been delving into that world eight times a week onstage," Bomer said of his performance as Donald. "But I think for Larry, the stakes are even higher. It's one thing to just be a product of that time, but to also be in the military, serving actively to be someone who's tried to achieve so much in order to create a smoke screen for himself, to give himself permission just to be. ... I think in his mind, if he can just become this guy who breaks the sound barrier and America has to love, then he'll never have to really deal with the parts of himself [he feels ashamed of]."
But Trainor is not completely alone in his journey toward self-acceptance. He has an ally, Rita (April Bowlby), a former star of old Hollywood who, after coming into contact with a strange force during an African film shoot, became Elasti-Girl, a superhero who is prone to turning into a blob when she becomes stressed.
That Rita originates from a similar time period -- and that she had a career in the entertainment industry, which has historically been more accepting of gay men -- factors into her friendship with Trainor, said Bomer.
"Like my grandmother would say, 'Oh, he's a bachelor,'" Bomer said in a Southern accent about his closeted character, to the laughter of the audience. "Rita has probably worked with a few 'bachelors' over her [career], who probably helped her out from time to time. So I think she understands who he is and they probably don't have to talk about it. They can just spend time together and watch her old movies, and he can be a fan [and they can] enjoy their time together."
The next episode of Doom Patrol -- whose super cast includes Brendan Fraser, Diane Guerrero, Alan Tudyk, Timothy Dalton, and Joivan Wade -- drops Friday on the DC Universe streaming service and centers heavily on Trainor's backstory in the closet. Nazis also make an appearance. Watch a teaser below.