Before You Watch…Who’s Who In ‘The Normal Heart’

Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons, Mark Ruffalo, Ryan Murphy & Matt Bomer (Vogue)

The Normal Heartis finally here this Sunday on HBO and while you’ve probably read the previews and interviews (with stars Matt Bomer and Jonathan Groff) as well as seen the trailers you may still need a helpful guide as to who’s who in the film.

Ask and you shall receive.

The following is a breakdown of the characters, who is playing them and who they are (as well as a few facts linked to the acclaimed 2011 Broadway production). The film, directed by Ryan Murphy, from a script by playwright Larry Kramer, is as epic as it sounds and reminds of a time not so long ago when the gay community was at risk and nobody would listen.

Joe Mantello and Jim Parsons (HBO)

Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo): The fiery writer (and a close resemblance to playwright Kramer) may let his temper and passion get the best of him so much that he nearly alienates everyone around him, his love story with Felix is the heart of the film. Ruffalo does amazing work in the role…and can now put at the top of his resume that he’s been in a love scene with Matt Bomer.

Felix Turner (Matt Bomer): A New York Time reporter who Ned seeks out to try to spread the word on the AIDS crisis. Felix and Ned start a love affair that, as you can guess from the trailer to the film, does not have a happy ending. Bomer’s performance will break your heart. (Actor John Benjamin Hickey won the Tony in 2011 for playing Felix in the Broadway revival)

Bruce Niles (Taylor Kitsch): A closeted investment banker, Niles believes in the fight to get the word out on the crisis but he doesn’t share the same fiery, blunt approach of Ned and the two clash over how to organize the movement. Kitsch’s best work since “Friday Night Lights.”

Tommy Boatwright (Jim Parsons): A hospital administrator and ‘Southern Bitch’ (his words in the play) who becomes a part of the early movement, Parsons played the same role in the 2011 Broadway production. Parsons appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” this week to talk about the film…

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Dr. Emma Brookner (Julia Roberts): A doctor who Ned meets with early on and who he bonds with over their shared frustration over the quickly growing epidemic. Wheelchair bound due to a bout with polio, Brookner desperately wants to advance the medical field to fight the disease but, like Ned, is met with people who dismiss AIDS as merely a ‘gay cancer.’ (Ellen Barkin won the Tony in 2011 for playing Brookner in the Broadway revival)

Mickey Marcus (Joe Mantello): Editor of The New York Post and a member of the early movement in the story. Mantello was Tony-nominated for playing Ned Weeks in the 2011 Broadway revival.

Mark Ruffalo & Taylor Kitsch (HBO)

Ben Weeks (Alfred Molina): Ned’s straight brother, an attorney, who doesn’t follow Ned’s fight in the early part of the crisis and shows his homophobic thinking, thus leading to an estrangement.

Larry Kramer: Not a character in the film but the playwright who wrote ‘The Normal Heart’ play, which originally debuted off-Broadway in 1985 and saw revivals in Los Angeles and London in 2004 and a Broadway production in 2011. He also penned a sequel featuring the Ned Weeks character called ‘The Destiny Of Me.’

“The Normal Heart” airs Sunday at 9pm on HBO.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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