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Does This All-LGBTQI+ Rom-Com Mark A New Era Of Hollywood?

We all know the Hollywood rom-com tropes. From a swoon-worthy main character holding a boombox outside a window in a dramatic declaration of love, to the classic running-through-an-airport-to-confess-their-feelings scene, these stories have been played out on our screens for decades. 
But how often do we get to see the queer experience reflected in these much-loved rom-coms? And how often are the queer characters actually played by queer actors?
Thankfully, major studios are (finally) catching up to society and creating films that tell more than just heterosexual love stories. 
One of them is Bros
Produced by rom-com juggernaut Judd Apatow, and starring comedian Billy Eichner and actor Luke Macfarlane, Bros tells the story of Bobby and Aaron. Bobby, played by Eichner, is a slightly neurotic and highly strung New York-based podcast host who has never been in a serious relationship. He meets lawyer Aaron (Macfarlane) on a night out and the two enter a complicated relationship. The result is a heartwarming, laugh-out-loud portrayal of both love and friendship. 
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Billy Eichner and Aaron McFarlane on the set of Bros
As well as highlighting the stories of queer people on the big screen, Bros is walking the walk by employing a completely LGBTQI+ cast. Considering the ongoing debate around straight actors playing queer roles, this is a historic Hollywood moment.
Lawrence Washington, aka Miss Lawrence, is one of these cast members. The former reality TV star plays Wanda, one of Bobby's colleagues at The National Museum of LGBTQ+ History and Culture.
"For so long, we've seen LGBTQ characters played by our straight counterparts in the industry, and it's never felt good," Miss Lawrence tells Refinery29 Australia.
They reference the fact that often, queer people are made to be the "butt of a joke" in mainstream movies — but thankfully, that's changing.
"With this movie, we got to tell a heartfelt love story between Aaron and Bobby and you got to see people like Wanda be authorities in a space that has denied our history as LGBTQ people," they say.
Actress Eve Lindley plays the character of Tamara, the museum's token Gen Z employee who has a hilariously monotone voice, and is of course, constantly filming the group.
Lindley, who is a trans woman, explains the power of having an all-LGBTQI+ cast.
"A lot of the time, I'm the only LGBTQ person on set. And so it feels like I have this huge responsibility to know what to say and know what's allowed to be said and to like, represent everyone," Lindley says.
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However, on the set of Bros, Lindley explains that she could just show up and act, rather than being the spokesperson for the LGBTQI+ community.
"The people in charge and everyone on set was sharing that responsibility, it felt like it was taken off my shoulders," Lindley says.
At The National Museum of LGBTQ+ History and Culture, Bobby works with a group of people from all corners of the community who are trying to change the perception of queer history. The team discusses what the public need to be educated on and even has some infighting, highlighting to audiences that the LGBTQI+ community is not a monolith. 
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Eve Lindley, Jim Rash, TS Madison Hinton, Dot-Marie Jones, and Miss Lawrence on the set of Bros
TS Madison Hinton plays another of Bobby's colleagues, Angela, a Black trans woman who is the voice of logic in an emotional and passionate cohort.
"My favourite thing about the movie is being able to see the different hues of the community," Hinton says.
"I get an opportunity to sit there and see the community play out right there in front of me, like, I can see the colours of the rainbow in front of me."
Hinton — who has previously been fired and discriminated against in the workplace simply for existing as a trans woman — explains the importance of an all-LGBTQI+ cast.
"The first word that comes to me when I'm asked that question, is it felt safe. And not only did it feel safe, it felt like you are with family," says Hinton.
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"I've worked in many places where I didn't really feel safe as a trans person because I don't know if they're okay with it, but [on the set of Bros], I was safe."
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Miss Lawrence, TS Madison Hinton, and Dot-Marie Jones in Bros
Given the hype around Bros, has the cast felt much pressure with this being the first major movie of its kind?
Miss Lawrence shares that so far, the majority of critic and audience responses have been positive.
"Because film, television, and cinema have neglected to include us in such a major way, and in major parts of storytelling, I feel like this was a moment that will serve as a healing tool forever.
"Not only do people get to laugh, obviously, it's a very funny movie but there are so many teachable moments in the movie as well."
All three cast members read the script for Bros pre-pandemic. Billy Eichner, who also co-wrote the script alongside director Nicholas Stoller, has spoken about the fact that this story has been in the works for over five years. But clearly, the long wait has been worth it. Bros is a thoughtful, heartfelt, hilarious and considered rom-com that is sure to be the beginning of many other queer love stories on Hollywood's big screen.
Lindley shares that while there may have been a little bit of pressure, at the end of the day, Bros is a rom-com, and she hopes that audiences watch it for what it is.
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"I know that there's a groundbreaking element to it. But I also think that we love rom-coms, and it's a fun, funny rom-com. So in that way, I'm really proud."
Check out this behind-the-scenes chat with the stars of Bros to hear more about their casting process.
Bros is in cinemas around Australia from October 27.
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