Armistead Maupin has reason to get excited. The new Netflix revival of his iconic Tales of the City series–the fourth television incarnation–debuts on Netflix Friday June 7, and boasts a cast more diverse than ever. It also has a gayer-than-ever story courtesy of an all-queer writing staff overseen by Orange is the New Black‘s Lauren Morelli.
“I thought ‘Maybe we should have at least just one token straight person’, Maupin says of a writers’ room stocked with queer folk. “Then I remembered I didn’t have token straight people when I wrote the goddamn thing. It’s great that we have our voices heard in so many ways this time round.”
The new series catches up with Tales characters Mary Ann, her ex-husband Brian, eccentric wealthy socialite DeeDee and the aging house mom Anna, once again played by original cast members Laura Linney, Paul Gross, Barbara Garrick and Olympia Dukakis respectively. New cast members include Ellen Page, Murray Bartlet, Charlie Barnett, Daniella Vega and Jen Richards.
Tales of the City revolves around the lives of a group of friends living in San Francisco in and around the apartment house of Anna Madrigal (Dukakis), an aging hippie, stoner den mother, located at 28 Barbary Lane. Maupin originally serialized the stories in the San Francisco Chronicle before launching them as a series of novels. The books earned wide acclaim for their frank depiction of queer life in the 1970s and beyond. PBS produced an adaptation of the first book in 1993, which ignited the ire of the religious right for its content (gasp! Naked gay people!). Two sequels followed on Showtime, before Netflix picked up the show for the 2019 revival.
The new series finds an aging Mary Ann returning to Barbary Lane to celebrate Anna Madrigal’s 90th birthday. But a dark secret from Anna’s past threatens the Barbary Lane family, as the friends must once again come together to defend their adoptive family. The series also delves into the queer history, covering the transgender riots outside Compton’s Cafeteria.
“I’m happy we’re educating the public about that event,” Maupin boasts of the new storyline. “It marks a moment when people got fed up. It was the manifestation of ‘We’re not gonna take this shit anymore’…That’s why our current trans heroes are so important because by exposing themselves to the world they’re winning over hearts and minds.”
Tales of the City streams on Netflix June 7.