Michael Chiklis on Why '1985' Resonated With Him: "I Found Myself Crying"

The actor, who worked in New York theater during the AIDS crisis, said he lost a lot of friends to the epidemic.

When Michael Chiklis read the script for Yen Tan’s black-and-white film 1985, which centers on a closeted gay man during the AIDS epidemic, he knew he had to join the project.

“I was in New York City in the theater community in 1985, which was very Dickensian. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. On one hand, everything was nice and right in front of me and I was excited about starting my new career and at the same time, it was an incredibly frightening time as there was a plague that was taking the lives of friends of ours all over and it was scary and awful,” Chiklis told The Hollywood Reporter In Studio on a recent visit.

“When I read this, it resonated with me. I found myself crying a number of times,” Chiklis added.

In 1985, closeted advertising executive Adrian (Cory Michael Smith) returns to his Texas hometown for the holidays for the first time in three years during the AIDS crisis and must navigate his relationship with his religious parents, played by Chiklis and Virginia Madsen, and confront an uncertain future. 

“I was a little worried when Cory initially talked to me about it because he said I would be playing his super conservative dad down in Dallas and I was worried that it would be just rot with overworked cliches," Chiklis said. However, “there’s tremendous love and things are much more complicated than just a two-dimensional look at things. And Yen was wonderful about making these real people on the page and also in his direction.”

Chiklis also discussed how “brilliantly” the film showcases the difficult process of coming out for the LGBTQ community, saying, “I think that’s another thing that I found so compelling, especially growing up in the theater community and seeing this play out.”

Chiklis added, “I happen to be a heterosexual man, but I watched this play out with so many of my friends and the trauma some of them went through in just contemplating coming out, never mind actually doing it. It’s so super important.”

Watch the video above to hear Chiklis discuss working with Madsen, why he felt “affection” for the film and why he thinks the younger generation doesn’t think about the AIDS epidemic at all.