When We Rise is an epic, sweeping history of the pioneers of the LGBTI rights movement in the USA.
The eight hour docu-drama mini series spans 45 years and follows the civil rights movement from its beginnings after the Stonewall Riots in 1969, through the AIDS crisis, to the achievement of marriage equality in the US.
The series focuses on several key activists, including Cleve Jones, who’s memoir When We Rise: My Life In The Movement the mini-series is loosely based on, Vietnam vet Ken Jones, women’s rights leader Roma Guy and trans activist Cecilia Chung.
Written and executive produced by Academy Award Winning screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black, who wrote the movie Milk, the series stars two of Australia’s biggest names, Rachel Griffiths as Roma Guy’s wife Diane and Guy Pearce as an older Cleve Jones, as well as a host of big-name American stars including David Hyde Pearce, Mary-Louise Parker and Whoopi Goldberg.
At a time when the fight for marriage equality in Australia is yet to be won and LGBTI rights are under threat from the Trump administration, it’s a huge win for the LGBTI community that this content is airing on TV.
So talk of low ratings is disappointing for writer and executive producer, Black. He responded to the negative talk in an interview with The Advocate in early March, saying "Before you frame this as anything disappointing, can you please point out that more people have seen this show already than ever saw Milk in the theatre. Millions more people around the world know our history today than they did on Sunday. That’s incredibly significant."
Black praised ABC for taking the risk of showing this content and pointed out that the LGBTI community has a responsibility to show up and support shows that are about us. “If we want to continue to see our lives portrayed onscreen, well, it’s a good idea to tune in, particularly on network television, because at the end of the day, it’s a dollar game.”
He also spoke about the great feedback he’s received from those who’ve watched the show. “I’ll tell ya, I’ve never had something so well received by an audience in my career. Watching the response on Twitter, on Facebook, and on social media, the notes that are coming in, the emails that are coming in, it’s been so incredibly humbling this past week to hear how people are receiving [it].”
To watch When We Rise in Australia, head to SBS On Demand or catch the next episode on SBS, Saturday night at 8.30pm. If you're in the US, episodes are available at ABC.go.com
Photos courtesy of SBS.