HBO Max’s Equal is a very special documentary series. As we celebrate Pride this month, we are constantly reminded that the pathway to true equality is a neverending road. Marriage Equality was only passed in the last ten years and our transgender family continues to face violence and discrimination. Joel Chiodi was eager to tell a history lesson in a new and exciting way.
Instead of having a dry, talking heads history lesson about where gay people came from, Chiodi and his team made the decision to cast actors in small recreations of famous queer people. Some people think the gay rights movement only started at Stonewall but that is a great disservice to people like Dale Jennings, Del Martin, and Phyllis Lyon and those icons are played by familiar faces in Cheyenne Jackson, Heather Matarazzo, and Shannon Purser, respectively. The stories of these people are very compelling, and seeing performers you already love helps lure you even more.
There is some shocking footage still in the series like when you see confusing medical procedures being done or men being dragged out of gay bars simply for being there. “There is an immediacy to it. When you see the footage of people having shock treatments, it’s an emotional moment,” Chiodi said.