Interview: Billy Eichner & Luke Macfarlane Talk ‘Bros’

Image via K.C. Bailey/Universal Pictures

From the comedic mind of Billy Eichner, Universal Pictures is proud to present Bros, the first-ever romantic comedy from a major studio to feature an all-LGBTQ principal cast and two gay men as the leads.

Aiming to revitalize the classic rom-com and tell an authentic LGBTQ story, this groundbreaking film follows Bobby Leiber (Eichner), a high-strung NYC podcaster and curator of the first museum dedicated to LGBTQ history. He has prided himself on being emotionally unavailable, but he soon develops undeniable feelings for Aaron Shepard (Luke Macfarlane), a hunky estate lawyer who is struggling with his own life choices.

Teaming up alongside Nicholas Stoller and Judd Apatow, not only did Eichner craft a specific narrative that reflected his own life, but he is inviting audiences to laugh at the broader jokes interspersed throughout – and there are several of them.

Other members of Bros’ all-star cast include Jim Rash, Dot-Marie Jones, Eve Lindley, Ts Madison, Miss Lawrence, Guy Branum, Monica Raymund, Bowen Yang, Amanda Bearse, Jai Rodriguez, Guillermo Díaz, Harvey Fierstein, and Symone, as well as notable allies Kristin Chenowith and Debra Messing.  

Instinct had the pleasure of chatting more about this historic film with Eichner and Macfarlane.

Image via K.C. Bailey/Universal Pictures

Thank you so much for taking some time to chat with me! How does it feel that Bros is finally being released?

Billy Eichner: It’s very exciting! You know, it’s been a long time coming. We worked on the movie for a long time, we put a lot of care into it, and not only did we want to make a funny movie, but we wanted to make a movie that makes audiences think and feel. We’ve watched it many times now at test screenings and different types of private screenings, and it’s always gotten an incredibly enthusiastic reaction. So, we’re excited for everyone all over the county, and all over the world, to be able to experience it. We’re very proud of it.

I heard it had an overwhelmingly positive reaction when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

BE: Yeah, it was amazing. There was nothing but wall-to-wall laughter in the room. When we sat down to make this movie, we never said, ‘let’s make a historic movie.’ We just wanted to make a movie that really makes people laugh out loud from start to finish. It’s produced by Judd Apatow, directed and co-written by Nick Stoller, and those guys have made some of the funniest, most hysterical movies over the past 20 years.

Bridesmaids, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Trainwreck, Knocked Up, 40-Year-Old Virgin – we wanted to give people a movie like that, but one that happens to be about a gay couple and LGBTQ characters because we’ve never really gotten one produced at this scale. So, to hear that thousands of people saw it in Toronto, and you sometimes couldn’t hear the next joke because they were still laughing, that’s exactly the kind of movie we wanted to make.

Image via K.C. Bailey/Universal Pictures

Luke, when you found out Bros was going to be made, what were your thoughts?

Luke Macfarlane: First of all, an opportunity like this doesn’t always come along. I was at a place in my career where I was really wondering if the studio system was ever going to sort of say, ‘hey, come on in.’ I’m thrilled that the fact that I’m an openly gay man did not prevent me from anything. Historically, that has probably prevented a lot of actors from getting parts, so it was cool that this was actually required for the role. It’s very exciting to be a part of this thing that’s happening now, and it also feels very much like a story that I want to tell. I’d say Aaron is a lot like me.

Was this your first time working with Billy?

LM: It is. We met in our first audition, and the first words that we spoke to each other were the lines from the script.

Obviously, it is imperative that your relationship in the film works, and we most definitely see the chemistry between you two. How was it when the cameras weren’t rolling?

Image via K.C. Bailey/Universal Pictures

LM: Ugh, it’s terrible (laughs).

BE: Yeah, we hate each other. We couldn’t even stand being in the same room as each other! (Laughs). No, like Luke said, we didn’t know each other personally before the movie. All romantic comedies, no matter how good the script is on paper, they live and die based on the chemistry between the two leads and you really need to root for the couple and believe that they love each other in spite of the challenges.

I think Luke and I always got along great, and there’s a lot of mutual respect. We enjoy each other’s company and we’re similar in certain ways. We’re also different in certain ways, just like our characters. It was cool because we were discovering each other as people, just as our characters were discovering each other on screen. That was exciting and fun.

LM: And that added to the chemistry that you see on camera.

Billy, can you tell us more about the inspiration behind Bros and how the story came to mind?

Image via K.C. Bailey/Universal Pictures

BE: There were a few different things we had in mind. I really thought it could be a compelling idea if you had two characters, gay men who are both around the age of 40, who had never been in love and prided themselves on not needing to be in a relationship, not needing to be in a romantic relationship, being self-reliant, putting a lot of value in that, and the idea of what happens when two men like that unexpectedly fall for each other in terms of how vulnerable you have to be and letting your guard down.

I thought there was a lot of comedic potential to be mined from that, and some more poignant material as well. That was the original idea we started with, along with the idea about how we kind of put masculinity on a pedestal in our culture. Not just gay culture, but culture in general. We deal with that in the movie in funny ways too, but this is something that does occur. I have seen it amongst me and my friends a lot over the years.

Did you initially have Luke in mind to play your love interest, or was he just the best one who auditioned?

BE: He was the best one for the part. We didn’t know who we were going to cast, and that’s the truth. We had a lot of incredibly open LGBTQ actors audition for the movie, and so many of them deserve to be in major studio films. I wish we could have cast 30 more! We have a large ensemble already, so we did get to utilize a ton of talent. Judd and Nick are known for discovering fresh faces with strong comedic sensibility and building a movie around them.

Whether it’s Seth Rogen in Knocked Up or Steve Carell in 40-Year-Old Virgin, and a lot of people didn’t know who Melissa McCarthy was before Bridesmaids. That’s what those guys do so well, but we’ve never seen it done for LGBTQ folks. But going back to your question, Luke got the role the old-fashioned way. We don’t have a casting couch (laughs). He was just the best guy, and we instantly hit it off.

Image via K.C. Bailey/Universal Pictures

LM: And they saw everybody!

Even though you said you weren’t intending on making queer history, you guys are. How does it feel to know Bros is breaking that gay glass ceiling?

BE: It’s very exciting. You know, we certainly wouldn’t have done it without the decades of queer cinema that came before us and all the ground that was broken by people like Harvey Fierstein, who I’m so happy is in the movie, as well as Amanda Bearse, who plays Luke’s mother. She was the first woman to come out on primetime TV in the early 90s, so the path was paved for us. Whatever historical statistics there are that relates to the movie are obviously very exciting, and they’re worth celebrating.

I hope that everyone, not just LGBTQ people, but straight people come and celebrate with us because ultimately, from all the history we have, it really is just a hilarious movie. We wanted to make a movie that everyone could relate to, regardless of who you sleep with. We need straight people to get to the theater to see this, and we need to show Hollywood, the world as well, that straight people are up for a great movie as long as it’s funny. The sexual orientation of the characters does not matter.

Since the beginning of Hollywood, comedies and romantic comedies have centered on straight people, and we love those movies. We watch them again and again. So, it would be cool to finally see that happen in reverse.

Image via K.C. Bailey/Universal Pictures

LM: If LGBTQ people can understand a straight story, then I think straight people can understand gay stories.

Why do you think it has taken until 2022 to reach this milestone?

BE: Because Hollywood is homophobic, and they were scared. Ultimately, it’s a business, and I think over the past few years, the major studio system realized that if a romantic comedy can make $100 million and an action film, superhero film, or franchise can make a billion dollars, they’re going to keep churning those out. They certainly weren’t going to take a chance on anything else. You barely see rom-coms about straight people made at the major studio level, let alone gay people.

The reason we didn’t get one about gay people for so long is because there was a feeling that straight people would resist it, and it would scare people. That there wasn’t enough of an audience for it. They’ve totally underestimated what audiences want, and they want something new and fresh. As long as it’s funny, I think they’ll be entertained by it, and hopefully show up.

LM: And not to be sentimental about it, but it needed to be done by Billy Eichner. He had the story to tell, he had the way in, and I think we were waiting for him to do it.

Image via K.C. Bailey/Universal Pictures

Thanks to Bros, and even Fire Island over the summer, do you think we will see more LGBTQ films made by major motion studios?

LM: I certainly hope so. Not only are we excited to see, but I think the studio is excited to see that this is going to make money. They don’t need to be as afraid of it as they think they need to be. There’s a long tradition of marketing, and they’re finally discovering that gay people buy things too! As we’ve seen with many, many, many brands, I think the same can be true of the studio system as well.

Bros opens in theaters September 30.

For the latest news and updates, follow the film on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or visit Connect with Eichner by following him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, while Macfarlane can be found on Instagram.


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