“Luke Evans is a hunk. I feel like the gay Julia Roberts over here,” Billy Porter playfully quips about on-screen ex-husband, Luke Evans. The beloved actors unite in a new American drama Our Son; a film that captures the emotional turbulence of a queer divorce. While its subject may have, historically, been a blind spot in modern cinema, Bill Oliver’s latest directorial project digs into the decay of a family bond as partners Nicky (Luke Evans) and Gabriel (Billy Porter) decide to separate after 13 years together.
Things change quickly for Nicky and Gabriel. The serenity of their cosy brownstown and noisy dinners with close gay friends are replaced with hard truths and a heated custody battle for their eight-year-old son, Owen (Christopher Woodley). Our Son sheds light on the stresses of a splintering relationship and its painful fallout. “Divorce brings into relief those things you take for granted in life – your relationship with your kids, with your partner, with friends,” Oliver tells GAY TIMES.
The legalisation of same-sex marriage, in 2015, marked the equal right to marriage, and so too came the right to divorce, the director notes. Our Son could be like any other achy divorce story but it delicately steers between the tenderness and anguish felt by a household. As Porter lightly puts it, the film is a welcomed side-step away from the routine coming-out movies that cycle through Hollywood – “I can’t see another coming-out story, I just can’t! I love Heartstopper, but I can’t watch it; that’s for the kids”
Porter and Evans sit down with GAY TIMES to discuss their moving on-screen chemistry, creating “a love duet between two men” and how a cookout in Long Island cemented their acting bond.
Today LGBTQIA+ couples have equal rights in marriage and divorce. However, we never really see examples of the latter in film. Why did you want to be a part of a queer divorce drama?
Billy: For the very reason that you just answered. We have never seen it before. We are breaking new ground. Every artist wants to be a part of something that feels new and fresh, that is fabulous.
Luke: I’m always looking for a story that hasn’t been told and a queer story that I felt was fresh and so normal. [It’s] something that, if you’re married, everybody – gay, straight, trans – goes through a divorce; this is a universal emotional journey that millions of people will possibly go through in their futures. It tells you the story in such a relatable way, these people are just human beings struggling through a journey which neither of them probably wanted. But, now in the middle of having to process it as individuals, as a broken couple, and with child a who they both love dearly.
How do you think this representation of divorce will speak to audiences?
Luke: People either stay in love or they fall out of it – marriages break up. It is important and it is a very valid reason why this film was made to show that point of view, and journey through two men who marry, who have only very recently been allowed to marry. It tells you a lot about where we have been, where we are now and what we are allowed to do as a gay couple bringing up a child. All these things have universally been accepted for straight people to do since millennia but we, as a community, have only been given these rights within our lifetime.
The story is about this everyday experience that people go through, even though it is two gay men. It is two human beings and a child going through something that everyone can understand, relate to and watch – this is a common story that has never been told. I remember going through my divorce and how painful it was. Love changes, which is the wonderful tagline of our story: love can change and diverge.
Billy: People come into your life for a reason, a season and or a lifetime and what I loved about this script is that we do get to the lifetime place and that is where the hope lies. In terms of representation, the representation of all humanity is healing for society. We must be able to humanise everybody.
Gabriel and Nicky’s on-screen relationship was incredible to watch. Billy and Luke, your chemistry is undeniable. How did you work to create that energy between you?
Billy: First and foremost I’ve known Luke’s work. The chemistry was so natural. Evans and his partner came to town the weekend before and it was the fourth of July. They came out to my house in Long Island for a cookout. I was like, “We have five hours to get this relationship together.” I know that helped.
One of the ways into the chemistry is because I am not supposed to be having this relationship in a major motion picture on a screen. It is the first time we are seeing this story and it is interracial, the gay stories were happening, the queer boys were happening for decades, and the queer white boys were telling their story before they let this in. We were right there for each other and the chemistry was immediate. What I love about the chemistry is that you can tell that we had sex. You can tell even though we are breaking up you can tell that there was a heat and a desire for each other at some point and that is so hard to do when you are doing a divorce movie.
The synopsis of Our Son is perfectly summarised by the film’s song “Always Be My Man” which you wrote, Billy, and then sang alongside Luke. What was it like to both sing and act together?
Billy: Music is very important to me and storytelling and how I develop characters. I have been trying to get a song attached to a movie since I started and I was sort of dismissed. Then my student, Leslie Odom Junior, gets a movie, an Oscar nomination and another [normination] for a song he wrote.
I have been trying to tell y’all for decades this is the real thing! I’m so excited because when have we ever seen a love duet by two out gay, above the title movie stars? Not only is the story new and fresh there’s everything else around it too.
Luke: It was a very fun thing to do. I have been a fan of Billy’s work. Vocally, I think his instrument is extraordinary and I have listened to so much of his new album [Black Mona Lisa] which is beautiful and to get to sing in a love duet between two men is beautiful. Our voices blend very beautifully together and it is a joyful way to finish the movie.
Our Son is out in select US theatres on 8 December.