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Murray Bartlett on Netflix’s ‘Tales of the City’ and finding your logical family

The former 'Looking' star talks taking on one of TV's most iconic gay roles in Attitude's July issue.

By Will Stroude

Words: Will Stroude

As Looking’s resident Peter Pan Dom Basaluzzo, Murray Bartlett played a central role in one of the most important LGBTQ TV shows of the last decade. And as Michael ‘Mouse’ Tolliver in Netflix’s all-new Tales of the City, he’s about to repeat the trick.

The upcoming 10-part revival of Armistead Maupin’s beloved book series, which was adapted into three TV mini-series in the nineties and early noughties, is set to burst back next month for a new wave of forward-thinking queer stories – and while the new series boasts a diverse new cast of characters, returning favourites like Mary Ann Singleton (Laura Linney) and Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis) will once again form the show’s beating heart.

Michael, or ‘Mouse’, made his debut in Maupin’s original 1976 novel and has appeared in every ensuing instalment of the books and TV adaptations, and though Murray will be the third actor to portray the infectiously playful San Franiscan on screen, the 48-year-old insists he didn’t feel daunted taking on the famed role.

“I went back and read all the books but I didn’t think that much about the previous TV representations of Mouse,” Murray says as he poses for an exclusive shoot adn interview in Attitude’s July issue, available to download and to order globally now.

Murray Bartlett, shot by Greg Vaughan exclusively for Attitude’s July issue

“I wanted to take my impressions of him for the show from the books, to let Armistead feed me Mouse through the books — that doesn’t sound quite right,” he laughs.

Like many gay men of his generation, Tales of the City had a formative effect of Murray as a young gay man growing up in Perth, Australia (he relocated to California in 2000).

“The new series is made for the people who have followed the series before, but also — hopefully — for a new generation of people who will come to this world,” he says.

“I have so much love for Tales of the City. It’s something very special and kind of profound, I guess, to me and to a lot of people, because it [originally] came at a time when there weren’t many — if any — characters and shows that were such a celebration of being openly gay and being yourself.”

He goes on: “It’s a beautiful statement about what community can be and how diverse it can be, in terms of age, sexuality and gender identity.

“I think Barbary Lane was always that. Anna Madrigal was always of an older generation, she was this clever woman passing on these wise words to the next generation, and now it’s going to an even younger generation.

“Having those links between the younger and older generations is important, particularly in the queer community.”

With its progressive presentiation of queer community and relationships, Tales of the City was among the first pieces of mainstream writing – and subsequently television – to present LGBTQ people finding their ‘logical’ family to a wider audience.

It’s something Murray hopes the new series can once again provide, especially for young queer people who continue to face rejection.

Murrey Bartlett (Michael Tolliver) and Laura Linney (Mary Ann Singleton) in Netflix’s Tales of the City

“Something that always spoke to me about Tales of the City is that it’s sort of a calling to people who are in that position; that there’s a community out in the world that you can find family with,” he explains.

“That’s something that we should all be aware of as human beings, regardless of our sexual preference or our gender identity.

“Perhaps if we had more of a sense of family as a human race we wouldn’t be fucking everything up…”

Read the full interview with Murray in Attitude’s July issue, out now.

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