When We Rise

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Television series
Original title When We Rise
Country of production United States
original language English
year 2017
Hungry Jackal Productions, Laurence Mark Productions , ABC Studios
length 60 minutes
Episodes 8 in 1 season
genre Docu-drama
idea Dustin Lance Black
music Chris Bacon, Danny Elfman
Initial release February 27, 2017 on ABC

When We Rise (English for "When we rise") is an American miniseries that aired from February 27 to March 3, 2017 on ABC . It is based in part on the memoir When We Rise: My Life in the Movement by American LGBT activist Cleve Jones . The idea for the series came from Dustin Lance Black , an openly homosexual screenwriter who also campaigns for LGBT rights.

Two of the eight episodes of the series were directed by Gus Van Sant . Black already worked with him for the film Milk , for whose screenplay he received an Oscar in the category Best Original Screenplay .

Black researched the series for nearly four years, during which time he took advice from the real people involved and arranged meetings between them and the respective actors.

Richard Socarides , an LGBT activist, is portrayed by his younger brother Charles Socarides, Jr. , and Rob Reiner portrays David Blankenhorn , a well-known proponent of the controversial Proposition 8 , of which Reiner was a bitter opponent.

A German broadcast date for When We Rise has not yet been set.


The series focuses on several real-life LGBT activists, some of whom were initially active in the civil rights movement. Shortly after the events of Stonewall in 1969 , another movement formed, the lesbian and gay movement , whose center in the series is primarily San Francisco . When We Rise depicts the development of this movement over a period of 45 years, including all personal and political successes and setbacks of those involved.


role actor Remarks
Cleve Jones Austin P. McKenzie

Guy Pearce

First peace activist , later LGBT activist in California; supported Harvey Milk's candidacy in the 1970s ; campaigns against the stigmatization of AIDS sufferers in the 1980s and 1990s ; came up with the idea for the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt ; successfully fights Proposition 8 in the 2010s
Roma guy Emily Skeggs

Mary-Louise Parker

Women's rights activist ; campaigns against discrimination against lesbians ; co-founds The Women's Building with her partner Diane ; campaigns for politician Carole Migden ; has a child with Diane in 1981; she finally married in 2013
Diane Jones Fiona Dourif

Rachel Griffiths

Partner, later wife of Roma; also a member of the movement
Sally Miller Gearhart Carrie Preston Member of the lesbian movement; Lecturer at Stephen F. Austin State University , later a writer; develops one of the first programs on women's studies and gender studies at San Francisco State University ; partly represents radical feminist views; Colleague of Cleve Jones and Harvey Milk; bitter opponent of John Briggs
Ken Jones Jonathan Majors

Michael K. Williams

Former soldier and Vietnam - Veteran ; becomes aware of his homosexuality after moving to San Francisco; also active in the gay movement, mainly advocates other African American members; becomes addicted to drugs after significant other dies of AIDS; defeated his addiction and was baptized in 2008 ; then fights against LGBT discrimination against the churches
Gilbert Baker Dylan Arnold

Jack Plotnick

Former member of the army ; campaigns for the legalization of marijuana after his honorable discharge ; sews banners for LGBT and anti-war protests; Friend and supporter of Harvey Milk; sews the original version of the rainbow flag in 1978
Cecilia Chung Ivory Aquino Trans woman and LGBT activist; mainly focuses on health issues; works as a consultant in several AIDS research centers; supports Ken during his withdrawal ; is made up in 2013 to ensure that non insured a gender reassignment surgery is possible
Bobbi Campbell Kevin McHale Nurse from San Francisco; suffered from herpes zoster in February 1981 , later from leukopenia ; fell ill with Kaposi's sarcoma in September ; makes his AIDS illness public as the first person ever; creates the first poster to draw attention to AIDS; writes a column for the San Francisco Sentinel (an LGBT magazine) and a safer sex brochure for the local health authority; in 1982 active member of the People with AIDS movement , which organizes memorial marches for people with AIDS ; dies of cryptosporidiosis on August 15, 1984 at the age of 32
Dr. Marcus Conant Dylan Walsh Dermatologist ; one of the first doctors to diagnose AIDS in patients (including Bobbi Campbell); Co-founder of one of the largest private AIDS clinics and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation ; fights in the 2000s for AIDS patients to be allowed to prescribe medical marijuana
Ricardo Canto Rafael de la Fuente Cleve's significant other
Jean Caitlin Gerard Roma's first boyfriend in San Francisco
Scott Rempel Nick Eversman A friend of Cleve; leaves his job, because he for Europe is set
Pat Norman Whoopi Goldberg Activist in the movement; founded the Lesbian Mothers Union in 1972 , which supports lesbian mothers in matters of custody ; sensitized over 300 health workers to the LGBT community between 1972 and 1979; first openly homosexual employee of the San Francisco Health Department , there from 1978 to 1987 looks after the needs of LGBT patients, later mainly AIDS sufferers
Del Martin Rosie O'Donnell Life partners and co-founders of the Daughters of Bilitis , the first lesbian civil rights organization in the United States; first openly lesbian member of the National Organization for Women , Del is also the first lesbian woman on its board of directors; advocate that lesbophobia is recognized as a problem of the women's movement; founded in 1972 together with other activists the first Political Action Committee for LGBT Democrats named after Alice B. Toklas
Phyllis Lyon Maddie Corman
Jim Foster Denis O'Hare Dishonorably discharged from the army in 1959 for his homosexuality; moves to San Francisco and soon becomes active in the gay movement; co-founds the Society for Individual Rights , one of the first LGBT organizations, in 1964 ; two years later helps Pat Norman and Phyllis Lyon open the first Democratic LGBT club; becomes the first openly homosexual speaker at a Democratic party congress in 1972 ; refuses to campaign for Harvey Milk, creating enmity between the two; died of AIDS on October 31, 1990 at the age of 55
Dr. Jones David Hyde Pierce Cleve's father
Chad Griffin TR Knight Political advisor and prominent LGBT activist; founded along with Rob Reiner in 2008, the American Foundation for Equal Rights , the Proposition 8 to contest; prepares a lawsuit with assistance from Theodore Olson and David Boies ; finally succeeds in the Constitutional Court; becomes chairman of the Human Rights Campaign in 2013
Richard Sam Jaeger Ken's significant other; dies in 1992 of complications from AIDS
Tom Ammiano Todd Weeks Politician and member of the Democrats; in 1977, together with Harvey Milk, successfully mobilized the population against the Briggs initiative to forbid homosexuals from becoming teachers; In 1992, as chairman of the education committee, achieved that homosexuality was included in the curriculum
Gavin Newsom Matthew Del Negro Mayor of San Francisco from February 8, 2004 to January 10, 2011 ; shortly after his election instructs the registry offices to marry same-sex couples contrary to the existing laws; these marriages will be annulled in August 2004; one of the most famous opponents of Proposition 8 in 2008
New Year James Justin Sams Successful singer in the fields of R&B , disco and soul , known for his falsetto voice; occurs at the beginning of his career together with drag artists, always switches between men's and women's clothing himself; is openly gay, an icon of the LGBT community and has often changing, very short love affairs; died on December 18, 1988 at the age of 41 as a result of his AIDS illness
Seville Alexandra Gray Trans woman, also a member of the LGBT movement
Jason Willam Belli Act Up spokesperson ; very direct and frustrated with the situation of AIDS sufferers; opposes the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and believes that the organization should care about the living and not about a memorial that nobody cares about; which shakes Cleve and briefly casts doubt on the project
José Sarria Michael DeLorenzo Wants to become a teacher after leaving the army, but is convicted of “moral misconduct” beforehand and therefore works as a drag performer; Co-founder of several LGBT organizations, including the pubs Association Tavern Guild ; 1961 first openly homosexual candidate for the city council; founds one of the largest charitable LGBT organizations, the Imperial Court System , in 1963 and calls herself "Empress José I, widow of Norton"
Vaughn Walker Richard Schiff Federal judge in California; from January 11, 2010 chairman in the Hollingsworth v. Perry ; announces on August 4, 2010 that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional; Opponents accuse him of bias because he is homosexual himself; The Supreme Court found him right in 2013
Michael Smith Charlie Carver Ken's first boyfriend
David Blankenhorn Rob Reiner Founder of the Institute for American Values , well-known opponent of same-sex marriage; is in the process of Hollingsworth v. Perry questioned as an expert , his testimony is later considered null and void; changes his mind in 2012 and advocates same-sex marriage
Robin McGehee Pauley Perrette Head of the non-profit organization GetEQUAL , which campaigns for social and political equality in the LGBT community through contentious but peaceful direct actions and online campaigns
Chuck Cooper William Sadler Attorney representing the State of California in dispute under Proposition 8; argues that same-sex marriage will undermine traditional one; changes his mind when his stepdaughter comes out as a lesbian
Richard Socarides Charles Socarides, Jr. Legal and political advisor to Bill Clinton , chief adviser on LGBT issues; advises Clinton, Don't ask, don't tell, and abolish the Defense of Marriage Act ; supports the Human Rights Campaign ; founded the LGBT-friendly media organization Equality Matters in 2010
Dr. Charles W. Socarides John Rubinstein Father of Richard Socarides, active as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst ; regarded homosexuality as a treatable , mental disorder ; claims that a third of his patients become heterosexual and that male homosexuality develops in the first two years of life and is the result of a dominant mother and a submissive father; when homosexuality was removed from the list of diseases, he founded the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality in 1992
Yvette A. Flounder Phylicia Rashad Pastor of the Church of God in Christ ; since 1986 preaches for AIDS sufferers; creates several companies and foundations for people suffering from the disease; Opened in 1991, the United Church of Christ is part of City of Refuge, against misogyny and homophobia going
Bobbi Jean Baker Jazzmun Trans woman from Memphis , moves to San Francisco in 1992; works against domestic violence and for LGBT rights; works as a pastor for the United Church of Christ , the West Coast Regional Trans Saints Minister of the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries Transcending and Transcending Transgender Ministries ; in the latter, she is also a singer in the gospel choir worked
Roberta A. Kaplan Mary McCormack Lawyer from Ohio ; takes over the defense of Edith Windsor in 2009 , whose late wife left her a greater inheritance, which she can not accept due to the Defense of Marriage Act ; finally succeeded in 2013 before the Supreme Court , which ruled that existing legislation on same-sex partnerships was unconstitutional
Ted Olson Arliss Howard Rather Conservative Republican , Attorney and Solicitor General from 2001 to 2004; got together in 2009 with David Boies , his opponent in the Bush v. Gore , together against Proposition 8 proceed
David Boies Henry Czerny Well-known lawyer who is often hired for high-profile litigation; Member of the Democrats and LGBT activist; supported his former opponent Ted Olson in the Hollingsworth v. Perry
David Balthazar Getty Member of Ken's AIDS support group, severely traumatized soldier who lost an entire unit; has a wife and children, but is actually homosexual; provides Ken with alcohol and other drugs , causing relapse; later wants to have sex with Ken, but instead they comfort each other about their losses; leaves the group the following day
Frosted Tyler Young Cleve's classmate at a Catholic school ; he has his first kiss with him

Episode list

No. German title Original title First broadcast in the USA German language first broadcast (D) Director script
1 - Part I. Feb. 27, 2017 - Gus van Sant Dustin Lance Black
In 1972, three young, gay people moved to San Francisco: Cleve Jones, a peace activist from Arizona , Ken Jones, an African-American Vietnam veteran from New Jersey , and Roma Guy, a women's rights activist from Boston , want to settle down in the big city who is considered to be extremely open to non-heterosexual people.
2 - Part II Feb. 27, 2017 - Gus van Sant Dustin Lance Black
Cleve is initially disappointed as San Francisco is not as liberal as he would have liked. However, a disappointment soon turns into enthusiasm when he hears about a young, homosexual politician from New York who wants to run for the city ​​council . Meanwhile, struggling Roma against the decision of the National Organization for Women , lesbians not to allow more than users and Ken accepted gradually his sexual orientation.
3 - Part III 1st March 2017 - Dee Rees Dustin Lance Black & Dianne Houston
Idea: Eileen Myers
Six years later, with the help of Roma and other women, The Women's Building was created . This is a community center run by women, where artistic events often take place and where women can exchange ideas about equality . In the meantime, Cleve supports the young politician who goes by the name Harvey Milk. Anita Bryant and John Briggs resist his candidacy . Bryant, a well-known singer, wants to mobilize conservative Christians with the help of the Moral Majority organization , while the politician Briggs starts a campaign. This is intended to forbid homosexuals and their supporters from working with children. However, these actions will give the movement even more tailwind than before, and Milk will be elected to the city council.
4th - Part IV 1st March 2017 - Dee Rees Lisa Zwerling
Idea: Allison Abner & Lisa Zwerling
In 1981, a disease spreads in San Francisco that severely damages the immune system . Since many of those affected, besides drug addicts, are homosexual men, it is initially called gay-related immune deficiency , and later it is renamed AIDS. Meanwhile, Roma and their partner Diane start a family in which they become parents of a girl through artificial insemination .
5 - Part V 2nd March 2017 - Thomas Schlamme Dustin Lance Black
Ten years after the so-called AIDS crisis Cleveland unveiled in Washington the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt , a monument in the form of quilts , commemorating the all the people who have died from the effects of the disease. A little later he goes to New York and pays Act Up , an interest group that works for AIDS sufferers, a visit. This aims to ensure that clinical studies are commissioned to approve new drugs against the disease. With the death of his partner Richard, who died of AIDS, Ken falls into a deep hole and begins to use drugs. Roma and Diane, together with activist Tom Ammiano, support the candidacy of the lesbian politician Carole Migden for the city council. During their collaboration, it turns out that Tom is the father of their daughter Annie.
6th - Part VI 2nd March 2017 - Thomas Schlamme Dustin Lance Black
In 1997, Ken was sent to a veterans hospital because of his drug addiction. Afraid of relapsing, he gets help from Cecilia Chung, a trans woman and activist. Meanwhile, Cleve travels to Washington to support the Human Rights Campaign . One of its most active members is Richard Socarides, who urges President Clinton to Don't ask, don't tell and to abolish the Defense of Marriage Act . Annie tries to be open about her rather unusual family background. Cleve, who now lives in Palm Springs , looks after the child of a drug addict neighbor. Nine years later, he is interviewed and gives his assessment to the murder of Matthew Shepard and that of George W. Bush led the way Federal Marriage Amendment from which defines marriage as a union between a man and woman.
7th - Part VII March 3, 2017 - Dustin Lance Black Dustin Lance Black
Shortly after Barack Obama won the presidential election, is the so-called Proposition 8 , the same-sex marriage in California abolished. Cleve is organizing the National Equality March in Washington to demonstrate for equal rights. Recently grandparents, Roma, Diane and Tom are launching the Healthy San Francisco program to provide basic medical care to residents of the city who do not have health insurance . Ken is baptized , but finds that other churches are hostile to his homosexuality.
8th - Part VIII March 3, 2017 - Dustin Lance Black Dustin Lance Black
Cleve fought for the next five years to get Proposition 8 reversed. A federal court found him right in 2010, but an appeal was filed against this ruling, which is why he ultimately took his case to the Supreme Court. There the 2013 vote is declared unconstitutional, Proposition 8 is therefore invalid. With Cecilia's support, Ken wants other churches to accept homosexuality in addition to his religious community, and Roma and Diane decide to get married if Cleve succeeds in the constitutional court.


In the Internet Movie Database, When We Rise was rated 7.3 out of ten stars based on 2,626 votes.

On Rotten Tomatoes , the series received a critical rating of 81 percent based on 32 votes, with an average of 6.65 out of ten points. The user rating is 78 percent, the average rating here is 3.9 out of five points based on 116 votes. On Metacritic , the series received a critic rating of 67 out of 100 based on 24 votes and a user rating of 6.3 out of ten based on 49 votes.

Cleve Jones praised When We Rise , saying the small changes in a 50-year multi-person story would not "diminish the veracity and authenticity of the series."

In 2018, the series received a GLAAD Media Award in the category Outstanding TV Movie or Limited Series (Best TV Movie or Miniseries) .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Elizabeth Wagmeister: Gus Van Sant Re-Teaming with Dustin Lance Black on ABC Gay Rights Miniseries 'When We Rise'. In: Variety. December 21, 2015, accessed December 14, 2018 .
  2. ^ Whitney Friedlander: Dustin Lance Black Hopes LGBT Equality Miniseries When We Rise Is a "Road Map" for "Difficult Times". In: Paste Magazine. February 27, 2017, accessed December 14, 2018 .
  3. Sage Young: How Historically Accurate Is 'When We Rise'? Years Of Research Went Into The Expansive Miniseries. In: Bustle. February 27, 2017, accessed December 14, 2018 .
  4. Elizabeth Wagmeister: Pauley Perrette, Rob Reiner & More Join ABC's Gay Rights Event Series 'When We Rise' (EXCLUSIVE). In: Variety. June 22, 2016, accessed December 14, 2018 .
  5. ABOUT WHEN WE RISE. In: abc.com. Retrieved December 14, 2018 .
  6. When We Rise: Miniseries - Rotten Tomatoes. In: Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 14, 2018 .
  7. When We Rise. In: Metacritic. Retrieved December 14, 2018 .
  8. Dam Nagourney: 'When We Rise': Stories Behind the Pain and Pride of Gay Rights. In: The New York Times. February 16, 2017, accessed December 14, 2018 .
  9. Kimberly Nordyke: GLAAD Media Awards: 'Call Me by Your Name' Wins Best Film. In: The Hollywood Reporter. May 5, 2018, accessed December 14, 2018 .