Broadway Global shares exclusive from Actor Lawrence Leritz and it is sure to inspire you to see HBO's The Normal Heart. Filming "The Normal Heart was an intense and profound experience. They somewhat expanded the stage play for the HBO film, adding some new characters and scenes. I was chosen by director Ryan Murphy (Glee) as an original GMHC Volunteer.
My first day on set was with all the main actors, Julia Roberts, Joe Mantello, Jim Parsons and my friend Mark Ruffalo, who generously welcomed me. The scene was about the first meeting to organize what became the GMHC. I felt so honored to be there. As the scene rehearsal progressed, I knew I was l part of something very important. You could feel the energy of complete commitment from all of the actors. And it was kind of fun to be screaming at other actors in the scene!
My inspiration that day came from an event I had produced, called The Day Of Compassion, which became the largest one day event in television history. The event had over 200 shows on the air. It honored those who were HIV+, had AIDS and to acknowledged those who already had died. It was right before the 'cocktail' was announced. It felt like a hopeless time. I was also a spokesperson on various talk shows, like Rosie O'Donnell and Maury. This experience totally connected with me on set. The idea of being willing to speak up, even when everything seemed dire.
The second scene I shot, which was at a disco, proved to be an incredible day. One of my favorite days on set ever. The scene was about the first fundraising attempt for the newly formed GMHC. There was such a beautiful feeling of love and brotherhood among everyone there. It was a very spiritual energy. We were all paired with various dance partners. I was pair with a young man named Chris, who was about 21 years old. And straight. I was interested in seeing how he would react to everything. The Normal Heart's talented cinematographer, Danny Moder (Julia Robert's husband) meticulously filmed a featured disco dance number with me and my partner. We went all out, doing wild and fun early 80's disco dancing. Danny said he loved the scene when it was finished. Then the most amazing thing happened. It just happened to be the same day of the awaited announcement of The Supreme Court case, Windsor vs.The United States, which ruled that day that a ban on federal benefits for gay couples, enacted under the Defense of Marriage Act, was unconstitutional. Larry Kramer, The Normal Heart's author, just happened to be there. As the news hit, Larry took the microphone and announced "We Won!" The whole set erupted into screams, hoots and cheers. No more needed to be said by Larry. And my dance partner cheered the loudest. It was profound moment realizing how far the entire movement had progressed since the early 80's. The rest of the day, we all seemed to be floating on air. A rare experience on set.
Although about 95% of what I filmed was edited out, I'm still there in the first scene. I was so deeply moved watching the finished film on Memorial Day weekend, I didn't care. To my surprise, approximately 200 people contacted me the next day. I even further realized how important this film was to so many.
One funny moment. On my final day of filming in the Village, we were given a walkaway lunch, which means you're on your own. I wasn't very hungry, so I went to a tiny pizza place, around the corner from set. As I sat down with my slice, Jim Parsons came in and joined me. There were only three stools in the entire place. We enjoyed chatting about the film. And I was just thinking of him as another actor. I happened to glance up at the sole worker behind the counter. His eyes we bugging out of his head with a huge smile. He was thrilled to have Jim Parsons in his tiny pizzeria. And I was also thrilled to have had such a spiritually rich experience filming The Normal Heart.
Did this movie hit to close to home for those who were hit by aids virus… friends and lovers.. ?
"Yes, so many of my friends and fellow artists died early on. It was devastating." Actor Lawrence Leritz.
If it hits that close to home why should we re-live this through a movie or the play.. ?
"It is such a great teaching tool for the younger generations, who have never experience this period of the AIDS epidemic." Actor Lawrence Leritz.
Will it still help funding today as we have many on waiting list for HIV meds.. ?
"I hope so. The Normal Heart certainly raises consciousness." Actor Lawrence Leritz.
Are these AIDS funding leaders looked on as heroes in America for the GLBT community?
"Definitely. They were the first to go past their own fears and pain to speak up for the entire community." Actor Lawrence Leritz.
Broadway Global and Theatre Chat thank Actor Lawrence Leritz for sharing his personal journey with The Normal Heart. Please support regional local productions of the pay and watch the HBO movie its life changing! Sometimes in life we are destined to sit right next to our next story, Lawrence Leritz at The 70th Annual Theatre World Awards, which we will share, the epic ceremony night on our next Broadway Global exclusive.