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When We Rise chronicles the personal and political struggles, setbacks and triumphs of a diverse family of LGBT men and women who helped pioneer one of the last legs of the U.S. civil rights movement, from its turbulent infancy in the 20th century to the once-unfathomable successes of today.
Guy Pearce (Memento, L.A. Confidential) will star as LGBT activist Cleve Jones. Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds, Angels in America) is set as women’s rights leader Roma Guy and Rachel Griffiths (Brothers and Sisters, Six Feet Under) will portray her wife, social justice activist Diane.
Also joining the cast are Austin McKenzie (Spring Awakening) who will take on the younger version of Cleve Jones; Emily Skeggs (Fun Home) as the younger Roma Guy, newcomer Jonathan Majors as the younger Ken Jones and Fiona Dourif (The Master) as the younger Diane. Still to be cast are African-American community organizer Ken Jones and transgender activist Cecelia Cheung.
The drama is written and created by Black, who won an Oscar for penning the screenplay for the Harvey Milk biopic Milk. The ABC Studios entry will be exec produced by Laurence Mark and Bruce Cohen, the latter of whom produced Milk. Gus Van Sant, who earned an Oscar nomination for directing Milk, will helm the two-hour series premiere of the seven-episode limited series and also serve as an exec producer on the mini, which was first announced in July 2013.
“It’s been the honor of my life to research and craft these stories of family, diversity and equality over the past three years,” Black said. “To have collaborators of this caliber sign on to help bring these stories to life is a tremendous vote of confidence, and I hope a testament to the relevancy and necessity of our continued march toward justice for all.”
Cleve Jones joined the gay liberation movement in 1972 and was befriended by gay rights leader Harvey Milk. He founded the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and led the National March for Equality in 2009. Ken Jones, an African-American Vietnam vet, joined the movement only to discover and confront racism within the gay men’s community. He organized services for homeless youth as he faced the devastation of the AIDS epidemic. Roma Guy co-founded the San Francisco Women’s Building. Currently a criminal justice activist, she worked to bring healthcare access to everyone in San Francisco. Diane co-founded the Women’s Building and has worked as an HIV/AIDS nurse at San Francisco General Hospital and a social justice activist for 33 years.
Pearce is repped by CAA, Shanahan Management and Sloane Offer; Parker is with WME; and Griffiths is with WME, Signpost, Shanahan Management and Jackoway Tyerman. A premiere date for When We Rise has not yet been determined.
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