HBO Max’s LGBT History Docuseries “Equal” Has The Best Gayest Dreamiest Cast Ever

When I was a kid, I’d make fake “programs” for film adaptations (yes I know programs are just for plays but I had a very active imagination) of my favorite novels for fun, because I was obviously very cool. It was an art project of sorts but the real joy in the process was not the cutting, pasting, and truly deranged adventures in hand-drawn fonts — but the casting. I just wanted to see my favorite actors (e.g., Whoopi Goldberg, John Candy, Sarah Polley, the cast of The Mickey Mouse Club) bring my most beloved stories (e.g., Dicey’s Song, Pippi Longstocking, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, M.V. Sexton Speaking) to life!

Looking at the cast for HBO Max’s upcoming docuseries “Equal” felt like seeing the natural progression of that deep early childhood work spread upon the stories that most enchant me now. In four parts, the program aims to cover several major milestones in LGBTQ Civil Rights history, blending archival footage with scripted drama. But the cast — my friends, the cast! We couldn’t have cut-and-pasted it better ourselves.

This is like fantasy football for LGBT history nerds!!

Episode One, set in the 1940s and 1950s, focuses mainly on cis white lesbian and gay activists: the early days of the Mattachine Society, the Daughters of Bilitis, seminal lesbian magazine The Ladder and rampant FBI investigations into gay persons in the United States. Shannon Purser and Heather Matarazzo play Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, founders of the Daughters of Bilitis and The Ladder. Sara Gilbert plays J.M from Cleveland, an anonymous reader of The Ladder who found community in its pages. Anne Ramsey plays an FBI agent. Anthony Rapp plays Harry Hay and Cheyenne Jackson is Dale Jennings, both early activists who were on the ground floor of The Mattachine Society’s founding.

Shannon Purser as Del Martin and Heather Matarazzo as Phyllis Lyon. Arms linked, wearing trench-coats and other '50s-era attire.

Photo : Courtesy of HBO Max

Sarah Gilbert as "JM," sitting in her home at a desk, looking uneasy

Photo : Courtesy of HBO Max

Anne Ramsay as an FBI agent, wearing a ponytail with glasses, reading "Odd Girl Out" in a dark bar

Photo : Courtesy of HBO Max

Episode Two focuses on trans stories in the 1950s-1960s. We are introduced to Lucy Hicks (Alexandra Grey), a socialite and prohibition-era entrepreneur and one of the first known Black transgender people in U.S. history; as well as Jack Starr (Theo Germaine), a “prominent local outcast” and “enigmatic early figure who pushed the boundaries of gender expression” in turn-of-the-century Montana. Jamie Clayton will be bringing the story of glamorous entertainer and author Christine Jorgensen, the “world’s first transgender celebrity” who became internationally known for undergoing gender confirmation surgery, to life. Isis King plays Alexis, a composite character who was involved in the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot in 1966.

Alexandra Grey as Lucy Hicks Anderson. Wearing a green trenchcoat sitting in a large wicker chair.

Alexandra Grey as Lucy Hicks Anderson (COURTESY OF HBO MAX)

Black-and-white image of Theo Germaine as Jack Starr

Theo Germaine as Jack Starr (COURTESY OF HBO MAX)

Close-up of Jamie Clayton as Christine Jorgensen

(8) Jamie Clayton as Christine Jorgensen (COURTESY OF HBO MAX)

Isis King as Alexis. Sitting a a counter at a cafeteria in a flowered shirt.

(9) Isis King as Alexis (COURTESY OF HBO MAX)

Episode Three brings us the moment we have all been waiting for our entire lives on this planet: Samira Wiley as activist and author Lorraine Hannsberry, who became the first African-American female author to have a play performed on Broadway with the production of “A Raisin in the Sun.” Other featured figures include Keiynan Lonsdale as Bayard Rustin and Jai Rodriguez as José Sarria.

Samira Wiley as Lorraine Hannsberry, wearing a black shimmery dress in front of a red curtain

Samira Wiley as Lorraine Hannsberry (COURTESY OF HBO MAX)

Episode Four brings us to Stonewall and its surrounding culture. Haillie Sahar is the legendary Latinx gay liberation and trans rights activist Sylvia Rivera, who co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries in 19970. Elizabeth Faith Ludlow will play Stormé DeLarverie, an oft-overlooked performer and gay civil rights icon who was known as “the guardian of lesbians in the Village.” Episode Four also features Scott Turner Schofield as Craig Rodwell, Cole Doman as Mark Segal, Gale Harold as Howard Smith and Sam Pancake as Dick Leitsch.

Hailie Sahar as Sylvia Rivera, wearing a stripe shirt and trench coat on a dark street)

Hailie Sahar as Sylvia Rivera (COURTESY OF HBO MAX)

Elizabeth Faith Ludlow as Stormé DeLarverie, wearing a suit and shirt with her arm in the air

Elizabeth Faith Ludlow as Stormé DeLarverie (COURTESY OF HBO MAX)

You have until October to figure out how the fuck to get HBO Max to play on your television set.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3227 articles for us.


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