Based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Mallon, the Showtime series Fellow Travelers takes place over many eras of American history and follows thriving politician Hawkins Fuller (Matt Bomer) who meets young, idealistic and religious political upstart Tim Laughlin (Jonathan Bailey). As they begin a forbidden romance, they navigate everything from McCarthyism, the Vietnam War, the indulgent mirror-balled 1970s and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.
The eight-episode series also stars Jelani Alladin, Allison Williams, and Noah J. Ricketts. Oscar-nominated Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia, Homeland) created the series and serves as executive producer with Bomer, Dee Johnson and Robbie Rogers, who previously worked on My Policeman with Nyswaner.
“Ron and I have known each other now for about 10 years,” Rogers told GLAAD’s Anthony Allen Ramos in a recent interview. “He sent me a few books, but this was one of them and I just, I loved it.”
He talked about the joy of working with Bomer and Bailey as leads, but also praises Alladin, Williams, Ricketts and the entire cast for their work. On top of that, a lot of the cast is part of the LGBTQ community. “It was a little bit easier to tell this story just because there was a lot that we didn’t really have to explain to them,” said Rogers. “It was just incredibly rewarding. I was around such incredible talent and just good people.”
Rogers said he wasn’t familiar with the Lavender Scare. In fact, not many people are familiar with this moment in the series and history when there was a moral panic of gay people working within the government. It was similar to the anti-communism of McCarthyism which led to raids and witch hunts and we see the evolution of queerness and the space they occupied and fought for over the decades.
“As a gay man, you wanna be part of these stories,” said Rogers. He remembers watching shows like Dawson’s Creek and wished to have love stories like that. “Working on All American, I’ve been really connected to telling stories that have underdogs or a forbidden romance.”
Another theme that comes up a lot in the series is Catholicism. “I was raised in a very Catholic household,” Rogers explains. ‘I think there’s a stereotype sometimes that if you’re gay you can’t be religious or you can’t be part of a religion. I just would really disagree with that.”
Rogers talks about the importance of including religious themes in the series since people’s relationship with religion played a huge role in the women and gay rights movements. “Just to speak to the Pope, it’s always helpful when someone like him is more accepting in a lot of different ways because so many people live and die by whatever the Pope says.”
He always gravitated towards stories about outsiders like Fellow Travelers because that is how he felt “I’m sure a lot of people that read this or watch this, will have the same kind of feeling.”
“Fellow Travelers” premieres October 27 on Showtime.