Look beyond Bros’ aggressively cheeky marketing materials (“Sometimes love doesn’t win, it slays”) and you’ll find a gay romantic comedy trying to unpack its many contradictions. Just like its central character, podcaster-turned-museum curator Bobby Lieber (played by co-writer Billy Eichner), Bros both rebukes and embraces tradition as a “boy meets bro” audience-friendly, studio-backed comedy; Eichner and director Nicholas Stoller seem to know that its Nora Ephron-inspired storyline cannot carry the weight of universal LGBTQ+ on-screen representation. That’s why a key subplot centers on the creation of an LGBTQ+ museum where, as Bobby soon finds, trying to get community members to agree on anything may be harder than wooing the hunky guy he just met.
Community’s scene-stealing powerhouse Jim Rash gets to stand in as the token voice of the “B” letter in those meetings as Robert, hilariously complaining about how bisexuals only get one “awareness week” whereas lesbians get a full month. Here, Rash reflects on the importance of being a part of a film like Bros; what it means to him as an actor, what it might have meant to his younger self, and what it may portend for an industry that’s finally ready to embrace broad, mainstream LGBTQ+ work. An Oscar winner (for writing Alexander Payne’s The Descendants), Rash will soon continue his eclectic on-screen career by reprising his role Captain America: Civil War as the dean of MIT for the upcoming Marvel series Ironheart.
The A.V. Club: Bros joins a long line of queer romantic comedies. Do you remember the first LGBTQ rom-com you ever watched?
Jim Rash: Oh, that’s a good question. Like, I feel there’s certainly more representation now. But I’m trying to think of like a full-on gay romantic comedy… like [1998’s] Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss, right? Was that technically one?
AVC: Yes, definitely.
JR: That’s the first one that pops in my head. And, obviously, there should be more. That’s what we’re hoping this movie does. That way you won’t have to stress to think of one and instead think of a ton. But yeah, remember Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss?
AVC: I do, actually! Do you recall how watching that film made you feel?
JR: I think, for me, it was probably even more impactful. I think one of the great things about having a movie like Bros and seeing more representation on TV in general—I just think about my young self seeing those movies. I came out a little bit later in my life (it’s well over 10-plus years now). But I think about the impact that a movie would have had back then, especially since I feel like I was basically raised by TV.
AVC: That makes sense, especially if you subscribe to the idea that you can’t be what you can’t see—which is all the more complicated when what you’re talking about is seeing your identity on screen.
JR: Absolutely. Seeing yourself on the screen—I mean, stories in general, that’s what they’re all about! So to have more representation, more diversity, more inclusion on that screen, allows for a younger generation (and you have plenty of older generations who still struggle) to see themselves. Whether it’s on the screen, in a book, or wherever, all these things are very powerful in giving you a sense of yourself. And feeling like there’s a community out there for you.
AVC: Many of your scenes center on feuding board members who are advocating and fighting for what feel like different things when it comes to how to best represent yourselves; it’s a microcosm of the LGBTQ+ community. How much fun was playing with that kind of dynamic?
JR: I think there was a lot of fun in having us in a situation where we’re trying to craft the perfect wing of a museum and we believe that our letter is the most important of the letters. I think that for Billy and all of us—but Billy in particular in writing this—was crafting something that allows us to have fun at our own expense. In a good way. Because I think the humor of, “I’m the most important! I’m not being seen!” fits into the larger idea of the group itself wanting to be seen as a community.
AVC: And it gets at this “the one we get has to be perfect” mentality, which mirrors the position Bros finds itself navigating.
JR: Bros is certainly not the beginning of that conversation. Obviously we have seen the ebbs and flows of high visibility on TV and film. And what I hope will happen, with Bros coming from a major studio, is more consistency. That this, if it’s not the start of conversation, that it will at least continue from here. Because there are many more stories that need to be told. So hopefully, it is the beginning of that. And then we’ll come to the answer we’re looking for: What is that perfect wing and what will the perfect celebration with that perfect unity be?
AVC: Those scenes also have all of you shining with some great one-liners. How much of that was on the page and how much were you able to improvise—particularly given your screenwriting experience?
JR: Everything was on the page in the sense that we shot the script. So we would always get that. And then, I think, in the spirit of having all these great people who love improvising and do so coming from their character, they knew they would add so many more layers to it. So yes, then we would certainly improvise. And then Billy would go into his head and throw out something great in the moment. Because I think especially with comedy, you’re crafting the whole time. You’re throwing things up there. I think the script was like 140 pages. So you have to imagine there was tons and tons of stuff that unfortunately didn’t make the cut that is probably just as great. Back in the day, all of that would be part of the DVD extras.
AVC: Billy has spoken quite proudly about assembling a principal cast that’s made up exclusively of LGBTQ+ performers. I was curious how it felt to walk into that kind of set.
JR: It was even more powerful for me in the sense that, back in pre-pandemic times, just as an actor, I went (and Dot-Marie Jones was there as well) for the table read. It was very early in the stages of Bros. And this was, I think, to hear their first draft. So I was not attached by any means. Often actors, we come in when they ask, to just come read so they can hear all the voices. I was reading a number of things, including Robert. And I don’t think I really knew what this movie would be. Because at that point I don’t know if they had sorted out that the cast, in Billy’s mind, needed to be for the most part from the LGBTQ community, even for the characters that identify as straight. I think walking into any movie situation—especially with this boardroom, you’re gonna be sitting around this table for three days straight. And so you just hope you love everybody. And, of course, I did! But it went beyond who was sitting at that table—it was also behind the screen, as well, with the crew. You know, there was representation everywhere. I think that just amplified the celebration.