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posted: 1/11/2014 5:44 AM

All-star cast takes on Ryan Murphy's passion play

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  • Julia Roberts speaks on stage during the "Normal Heart" panel discussion at the HBO portion of the 2014 Winter Television Critics Association tour at the Langham Hotel Thursday.

      Julia Roberts speaks on stage during the "Normal Heart" panel discussion at the HBO portion of the 2014 Winter Television Critics Association tour at the Langham Hotel Thursday.
    Associated Press

 
By Lynn Elber
Associated Press

PASADENA, Calif. -- Producer Ryan Murphy said it was "sort of thrilling" to feature openly gay leading men Matt Bomer and Jim Parsons in an AIDS TV drama.

Murphy said social attitudes toward gays have changed a great deal even in the five years he's been working on the project, "The Normal Heart." But he didn't seek out any actors for the drama based on their sexuality, only on their skill, said the producer of "Glee" and "American Horror Story."

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Bomer stars in USA's crime caper "White Collar" series, and Parsons is the Emmy Award-winning star of "The Big Bang Theory."

The HBO film, adapted from Larry Kramer's 1985 play about the early years of the AIDS crisis, also stars Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts and Taylor Kitsch.

In a Q&A session Thursday with the Television Critics Association, Roberts wryly brushed a question about her "very unglamorous" role as a paraplegic doctor researching the AIDS virus.

Said the "Pretty Woman" star: "It's funny when a girl just looks like a person, you're unglamorous," adding, "I'm just saying."

"The Normal Heart" debuts this spring on HBO.

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