Laura Linney on 'Tales of the City' Return: "Just as Necessary" as Original Run

Author Armistead Maupin and showrunner Lauren Morelli also reflect on the show's revival at Netflix.
Alison Cohn Rosa/Netflix

"What's changed in San Francisco?" Olympia Dukakis' matriarchal character, Anna Madrigal, asks in the opening scene of Netflix's Tales of the City, premiering June 7. "Not much."

As if to illustrate that point, just before a bus filled with the cast of the rebooted series pulled up to the Castro Theatre in San Francisco for the show's red carpet premiere, a pair of nudists stood in front of the marquee. The two men, wearing only sneakers, socks and baseball caps, looked around at the crowd lined up for the opening night of the San Francisco International Film Festival.

"I can't believe they brought back Tales," one of them said. Inside, after walking through the throngs of fans and ticket holders, showrunner Lauren Morelli (Orange Is the New Black), who executive produces alongside Alan Poul and author Armistead Maupin, said the same thing: "I really can't believe they let us do this."

"This" means furthering the series of beloved books by Maupin, which began as a newspaper column in the San Francisco Examiner and chronicled the lives of the residents of an apartment building on the fictional Barbary Lane as very real-time events play out over nine books: Reagan, AIDS, the Jonestown massacre. The first three books were first adapted into a series on PBS in 1994.

"But then Showtime saved us [in 1998, with the other six books] when PBS abandoned us," said Maupin, referring to the public broadcaster giving in to outcry over nudity and homosexual content and political threats of federal funding cuts. On what happened to be his last day in San Francisco (he had a garage sale, sold everything and is moving to London), Maupin couldn't stop praising Morelli's desire to "show kindness in the world."

He also couldn't seem to stop pinching himself that he's on a modern streaming platform. "I'm so happy to be on Netflix," he said. "And to seem hipper than I am. As Mrs. Madrigal says on the series: 'You don't have to keep up. You just have to be open.'"

Walking the red carpet, Laura Linney (Ozark) got almost as much attention as Maupin. Tales of the City was her breakthrough role, and she believes it's back at exactly the right time. "Our world is in a very confused place now," she said. "And there are topics that are difficult for people to talk about. Similar to how we felt with the first series of Tales, with the AIDS crisis. It's a different type of polarizing now, but the series is just as necessary to help us talk about it."

Linney and Maupin each got a sustained standing ovation following the screening. As the audience left the theater to head to the Netflix-sponsored afterparty at the Regency Ballroom near Nob Hill, several festivalgoers were unable to believe Maupin is leaving San Francisco. But Murray Bartlett (Looking), who took over the role of Mouse on the series, has a hunch he'll be back. "I think he's done this kind of thing before. He always seems to come back to San Francisco. Everyone does, right?"