"This show is resonant to me on so many levels because not only did, you know, both my college roommates died from AIDS — people dropped dead left to right," said Parker on Tuesday at Disney/ABC's Winter 2017 Press Tour

By Natalie Stone
January 10, 2017 10:39 PM
Jenny Anderson/WireImage

Mary-Louise Parker is sharing her personal connection to When We Rise, the upcoming series on which she stars.

At Disney/ABC Television Group’s Winter 2017 TCA Press Tour on Tuesday, Parker, 52, sat alongside cast mates Ivory Aquino, Michael Kenneth Williams, Guy Pearce, Rachel Griffiths and creator and executive producer Dustin Lance Black to discuss the series, which chronicles the real‑life personal and political journey of LGBT men and women who helped pioneer the gay rights movement in the U.S.

During the candid discussion, Parker, who will star as Roma Guy in the miniseries, revealed that two of her college roommates passed away after their battle with AIDS.

In response to an audience member inquiring about Hollywood being “out of touch with Middle America or of living in a bubble” following the 2016 election, Parker offered her differing opinion, which she formulated from real-life events.

“I don’t live in Hollywood, and I’ve never lived in Hollywood. I’ve lived in New York for 26 years, something like that. I think people see an actor, and they have an idea of something, and it all falls under the umbrella of something really shiny and inauthentic called Hollywood, and I don’t think that’s always the case,” said Parker, who was raised in Arizona and claims she “didn’t grow up with tons of money or tons of privilege.”

“This show is resonant to me on so many levels because not only did, you know, both my college roommates died from AIDS — people dropped dead left to right,” she continued in reference to the AIDS epidemic. “It wiped out an entire population of an audience in New York City. As Fran Lebowitz said once so beautifully, ‘Where went the audience for the opera and the ballet and the theater?’ There’s so many things that have been lost that, for me, this story really resonates on that level. And I think that no story is more dramatically interesting than to see someone fight a battle that is seemingly unwinnable.”

Parker continued: “When you watch it, if you are my age, it puts ice in your veins, you know.”

But although Parker admits that the series, which addresses real-life moments in U.S. history, is “really sobering” to watch, she is thankful for the progress that has been made in the gay rights movement — and commends Black for furthering the message.

“The fact that I have to explain to my children what homophobia is is a result of the work that these people did. And my children live in a different world, yes; but because of the work that Lance has done, there’s a whole other group of children that will have that luxury because of him and because of the way that he’s extended himself a little bit further during this time,” said Parker, who added, “I do think that it’s so beautifully done and it’s so immediately and instantly human and relatable that there is no way that someone with a halfway open mind can’t watch it and be moved and if not reconsider, then at least consider.”

When We Rise premieres Monday, Feb. 27 on ABC.

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