Earlier this year, the Universal-backed Bros hoped to go where no major studio comedy had gone before by becoming the first LGBTQ rom-com starring two actors — Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane — to top the box office charts. Despite critical acclaim and sold-out screenings at the Toronto International Film Festival, though, the movie had to settle for fourth place during its opening weekend and a cumulative gross just shy of $15 million.
Eichner — who also wrote the movie — didn’t shy away from expressing his disappointment in interviews and on social media. In a since-deleted Twitter post, he suggested that “straight people… just didn’t show up for Bros,” potentially contributing to the film’s financial woes.
Flash-forward a few months, and Universal’s specialty label, Focus Features, is releasing its own LGBTQ love story with out gay actors front and center: Spoiler Alert, produced by and starring former Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons. Based on the memoir by TV journalist, Michael Ausiello, the movie strikes a very different tone than the proudly raunchy R-rated Bros, recounting the story of Ausiello’s romance with his husband, Kit Cowan (played by Ben Aldridge), from their first meet-cute in 2002 to Cowan’s death from cancer in 2015.
Asked whether he’s concerned about Spoiler Alert meeting the same fate as Bros as it launches in theaters, Parsons is understandably hesitant to see both films as part of some larger trend about the kinds of LGBTQ-themed stories that mainstream audiences will or won’t go see.
For his part, Parsons says he was specifically drawn to Spoiler Alert because it afforded him the opportunity to portray one-half of a gay couple that doesn’t get to live out a picture-perfect “happily every after” story. Even before Kit’s cancer diagnosis, he and Michael have a sometime-tumultuous romance that includes secret affairs and even separate living arrangements.
Parsons also has experience grieving the loss of a loved one that he was able to draw on for the more tragic parts of Michael’s story. In 2001, the actor’s father died suddenly in a car crash and that experience shaped his interest in stories that wrestle directly with mortality.
Based on his own experience with grief, Parsons says he still makes a point of reaching out to friends and family members whenever they lose someone.
Meanwhile, Big Bang Theory fans still grieving the end of the hit CBS sitcom were surprised to learn how Parsons directly impacted the producers’ decision to wrap the show up after its twelfth season in 2019. Jessica Radloff’s recent oral history, The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit, recounted how things went down behind the scenes, including the fact that Parsons’s choice to step away from the show apparently “blindsided” his co-stars, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco.