cinema verite tim robbins thomas dekker 'Cinema Verite's' Tim Robbins, Thomas Dekker on Lance Loud being openly gay in 1973Lance Loud is generally considered the first openly gay person to ever be shown on television, when his family was the subject of the 1973 PBS documentary “An American Family.” Saturday night (April 23), a movie about the making of that documentary, “Cinema Verite,” premieres on HBO.

Thomas Dekker (“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” “Nightmare on Elm Street” 2010) stars as Lance, a role he says turned out to have many more layers than he originally thought.

“When I read the script I thought he was just this kind of flamboyant
guy. But when I watched his interview, I saw that he was such a myriad of
things,” says Dekker. “He was famous for being the first openly gay young guy on
television and in the public, and that was a brave thing to do in that
time. He had this confidence to go completely in his own direction and
no matter how eccentric or daring it was, to him, it was very honest and

Tim Robbins plays the Bill, the Loud family patriarch, who says that Lance Loud has become a gay icon, reaching legendary status in changing the American people’s perceptions about homosexuality.

“I think you have to understand the context in which America saw this first representation of what it is to be a family, having cameras on you. It was a major breakthrough for a large segment of the population that was living in the shadows … and in shame in many communities throughout America,” says Robbins.

“Imagine being a gay man in 1973 in a community that considered you a weirdo and an outcast and, oftentimes, you felt your own safety was at risk. And all of a sudden on American television comes Lance Loud, who is openly and proudly gay,” he continues. “I believe it was a major liberation for a lot of American males. It’s taken on a legendary status as something that probably started a sea change in the way homosexuals are perceived.”

Director Shari Springer Berman adds, “Lance was open and positive about his sexuality, and his family accepted him. It may have surprised some viewers, but the family loved him for who he was. He never ‘came out,’ per se, on the show, but he didn’t hide who he was, either, and it was a first for television. I actually think it was America who came out when they met Lance.”

“Cinema Verite” premieres Saturday, April 23 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Watch a behind-the-scenes feature below.

Posted by:Andrea Reiher

TV critic by way of law school, Andrea Reiher enjoys everything from highbrow drama to clever comedy to the best reality TV has to offer. Her TV heroes include CJ Cregg, Spencer Hastings, Diane Lockhart, Juliet O'Hara and Buffy Summers. TV words to live by: "I'm a slayer, ask me how."