Netflix’s new movie Tick, Tick... Boom! might be a lot of things—Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut, Andrew Garfield’s best performance to date, and a biopic of Rent creator Jonathan Larson, just to name a few—but it’s also a look at how the AIDS epidemic was beginning to ravage New York’s gay community in the early ‘90s and how the opportunities afforded queer people weren’t—and in some case still aren’t—equitable to those available to straight-presenting individuals.
It’s something that the film’s Alexandra Shipp and Robin de Jesús recognize keenly. Both out themselves, Shipp and de Jesús connected with Larson’s work on a personal level, as they tell us in the video below.
De Jesús says his role as Larson’s best friend, Michael, meant that he “got to wrap my people in a history that had erased them.” He continues, “The HIV epidemic and the AIDS epidemic did so much to the Puerto Rican community in the Bronx and all over New York City, and there’s not a lot of history about that. Even just putting me in that narrative in that period is reinstating us into history.”
Shipp called out gay misogyny and gay racism in our chat, saying, “We’re a subculture, but we’re a product of our societies.”
De Jesús lauded, “the amount of lesbians who took care of gay men in their last days,” saying, “I don’t know any story that’s ever taken on that narrative at all.” Shipp agreed, saying, “We see articles and there are books about it, but there’s no real conversation about how the community really helps each other. We had to! No one else was doing it.”
We also talked about another project de Jesús has done with a bit of a cult following: the 2003 movie Camp, in which the actor played a student at a Broadway camp that was also named Michael. “It was pure in its devotion to musical theater,” says de Jesús, noting, “the way everyone was just obsessed with it was also pure in a sense...It was just like sheer joy and excitement. That is what we are. That’s what’s inside all of us theater nerds, right? And other cultures of nerds as well.”
De Jesús contends, though, that “What Tick, Tick... Boom! is experiencing in terms of success and backing and love from the community and from power is what Camp deserved.”
Tick, Tick... Boom! is on Netflix now. You can check out our review of the movie here and, if you’re feeling nostalgic, you can also read our original 2003 review of the movie Camp right here, as well.