The 10-episode dramedy, slated to debut this summer, is based on Maupin’s acclaimed book series of the same name ― nine novels published between 1978 and 2014, telling a story first developed as a serialized column in the San Francisco Chronicle. The first book was the basis for the 1993 PBS miniseries “Tales of the City,” starring Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis. Two additional installments, “More Tales of the City” and “Further Tales of the City,” followed on Showtime in 1998 and 2001.
With its colorful, diverse cast of characters, the television trilogy has been embraced as a queer cult classic over the years. Fans will be pleased to know that Linney and Dukakis are reprising their roles in the Netflix series, along with a host of talented newcomers.
Set in 1970s San Francisco, PBS’ “Tales of the City” followed Mary Ann Singleton (Linney), a woman from Ohio, as she learned to navigate San Francisco and encountered the story’s various freewheeling characters, many of them LGBTQ. Along the way, she found an apartment at 28 Barbary Lane, where her eccentric landlady, Anna Madrigal (Dukakis), came to serve as a surrogate mother of sorts.
“Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City,” which was announced last year, picks up as a middle-aged Mary Ann returns to present-day San Francisco for Anna’s 90th birthday celebration. Once there, she is reunited with members of her chosen family, including gay pal Michael “Mouse” Tolliver (Murray Bartlett of “Looking” fame).
Rounding out the cast are Ellen Page as Mary Ann’s daughter, Shawna Hawkins; Zosia Mamet as Claire Duncan; Charlie Barnett as Ben Marshall; and the actor Garcia, who is nonbinary, as Jake, Anna Madrigal’s caregiver who identifies as transgender.
In keeping with the show’s contemporary setting, modern San Francisco issues ― such as the encroachment of the tech industry and the fact that the city is now consistently ranked as one of America’s most expensive ― will be incorporated into the narrative.
Showrunner and executive producer Lauren Morelli told Out magazine that she felt the timing was right for a “Tales of the City” revival, with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall demonstrations ― often considered the symbolic start of the LGBTQ rights movement ― coming up in June.
“In talking to people [about the show], there had been this drop off point where, below a certain age, it seemed like a lot of people were totally unaware of such a landmark thing,” she said. “It felt really exciting to get to dive back into an overtly queer community and bring in some new faces and new generation of character and audience.”
In an interview with Vanity Fair published Tuesday, Morelli pointed out that all the writers of the Netflix series are LGBTQ.
“If we were going to do this, it needed to usher in a new generation of characters and then, hopefully, a younger audience,” she said. “We know how starved the younger, queer community is for authentic representation. You want to create a world that looks like our world.”