Jim Parsons remembers the moment he knew he was gay. The Big Bang Theory actor was studying theatre at the University of Houston in Texas, where he was surrounded by loving, open-minded friends and introduced to landmark gay plays Angels in America and Love! Valour! Compassion! “The first time I had a crush on a boy in undergrad, I was like, ‘Oh, [shoot], this is seeing the world in colour,’ ” Parsons says. “I realised all the crushes I’d had on girls in the past [were] black and white in comparison. And I was like, ‘Well, I can’t go back. I am Dorothy and I walked out of the house into Oz, and I’ve just got to keep going down the brick road.’” It was a life-changing experience for the four-time Emmy winner, who publicly came out in 2012 and married his long-time partner, TV producer Todd Spiewak, in 2017. Now Parsons, 47, leads the all-gay cast of Netflix’s The Boys in the Band , adapted from Mart Crowley’s 1968 play. The movie reunites the Broadway cast of the play’s 2018 Tony Award-winning revival, which starred Parsons, Zachary Quinto ( Star Trek ), Andrew Rannells ( Girls ) and Matt Bomer ( White Collar ). Jim Parsons can’t get enough of creepy role in Netflix series The drama unfolds in a chic New York apartment in the late ’60s, where Michael (Parsons) is hosting a birthday party for his friend Harold (Quinto) and their pals, all of whom are gay. But the booze-soaked night takes a turn when Michael’s homophobic, maybe closeted college roommate, Alan (Brian Hutchison), shows up unannounced, and the men begin to air their resentments: for each other, and a society that has conditioned them to hate themselves. The stage play and William Friedkin’s 1970 film version were considered groundbreaking 50 years ago for putting gay characters front and centre, warts and all. The first time Parsons read it, “I was confused, I’ll be frank with you,” he says. “The trick was understanding and accepting the time these men were living in, and that started to make some of the ways they behaved and talked and dealt with each other make more sense.” Joe Mantello, who directed the 2018 production and the new movie, recalls finding the original film “absolutely terrifying” when he saw it in college as a just-out gay man. He hesitated when super-producer Ryan Murphy (Netflix’s Hollywood ) approached him about reviving the show a few years ago, but says his respect for the material has grown exponentially since. “People tend to discuss this play in terms of the self-loathing,” Mantello says. “That is definitely a major component in the script, but I also see tenderness, forgiveness and heroism. A lot of that is this particular group of actors and how they were able to (bring) nuance to these characters.” Latinx actor Robin de Jesus, a Tony nominee for Broadway’s In the Heights and Boys in the Band , plays the unapologetically flamboyant Emory, one of only two characters of colour in the film (along with Michael Benjamin Washington’s Bernard, a sophisticated yet reserved black man). I didn’t realise that for myself until I’d gone through this with these guys – it’s a specific fraternal group feeling I’ve never had before The Boys in the Band star, Jim Parsons He could relate to the script’s depiction of friendship among gay men, who are often ostracised by family members and classmates growing up, and forced to suppress parts of themselves. “Everyone inherits trauma built into our DNA, but when you’re also gay and come from trauma, it’s like, ‘Now I’ve got to add this to it,’” de Jesus says. “That’s the beauty of this play: the recognition that the families we create sustain us. That sense of community has always been there and is vital to our survival.” There was a similar sense of camaraderie on set, Parsons says, given that he had never worked with so many out actors and creatives on a project before. “There was almost a primal, tribal aspect that I didn’t realise I belonged to, in a weird way,” Parsons says. “[These characters] lived in a time when it was so much a necessity for them to be surrounded by that tribe for protection, and we are fortunate enough to live in a time where that’s not as big of a necessity in our culture. But something’s lost in that we don’t now connect in that way as often. “I didn’t realise that for myself until I’d gone through this with these guys – it’s a specific fraternal group feeling I’ve never had before.” The Boys in the Band is streaming on Netflix.