Q&A: Armistead Maupin & Laura Linney at the Bridge Theatre

WHEN?: 9/12/19

Tales Of The City author Armistead Maupin has moved from San Francisco to London and has joined actress Laura Linney on a stage familiar to her to explain why.

  • Read on for reasons including how Maupin’s English grandmother was inspiration for Anna Madrigal

He thanks his late suffragette English grandmother (also ‘spiritual inspiration’ for his beloved Anna Madrigal character) for providing him with the heritage to allow him to make his home in Clapham a block from the Common where he can walk his dog with husband Chris ‘who lived here 25 years ago when he was a model’.

Fans of the original TV series will remember Madrigal was played, as she is in this year’s Netflix reboot, by Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis.

Maupin remembers: ‘She was the first affectionate transgender character. When Tales was originally done no-one would touch that part.

‘Olympia had just won the Oscar (in 1987 for Moonstruck) and she was very bold about it. She even hired a transgender consultant.’

Linney (pictured in the clip from the 1993 1st TV series of Tales), a producer of the new Tales (see clip below), explains that there had been some resistance to Dukakis continuing the role because she is not transgender but excluding her didn’t feel right because of her commitment to the project from the very beginning.

Linney also looks back with affection: ‘Tales was my first or second job and I was terribly intimidated by film and television. I can’t imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t done it. I loved the material and the experience was just magical.’

Maupin reminisces about Tales’ origins as a regular column in the San Francisco Chronicle. ‘Sometimes I’d be writing Wednesday’s column on a Monday. I’d come in late having had fun the night before.

‘It was great having dialogue with my readers. Sometimes I’d be told: ‘I know where you’re going with this story’ and I’d veer away.’

Author Neil Gaiman described the first few books as a ‘Trojan horse’ and it’s a comparison Maupin identifies with.

‘I knew I was committing a radical act. My first friend died in 1982 and I killed off Jon Fielding because I wanted to put the horror of AIDS into the middle of it.’

Linney is our interviewer and she is doing so at a venue where she played recently in one-woman show My Name Is Lucy Barton to great acclaim.

Neither knows whether Netflix will renew Tales for a second season.

Maupin is writing a new Tales book: ‘I’m working on a novel Mona Of The Manor which is a step back to when Mona Ramsey inherited a manor house in the Cotswolds in Babycakes.

‘1988 was about Thatcher announcing Clause 28 and I think Mona would have a few things to say about that. I’ve always wanted to write an English village novel. Especially after Mona announced: ‘I’m a simple English country dyke and don’t you forget it’.’

Maupin is taking questions from the audience and has advice for aspiring writers: ‘Don’t dream of riches: they could come and they do to some. I’ve only really been able to make a living out of it by television. When you sit down to write, have as much fun as you can.’

His message to his readers reinforces much about what makes the ‘logical family’ of his books such a warm crowd people want to spend time with.

‘My simple message is: ‘Don’t be afraid of bullies. Be yourself. Coming out is still the strongest thing you can do. A lot of gay people are still afraid of losing the love of someone because of who they are. That’s a shame and a waste.

Tales Of The City is about people making it through life because of love and using love to get through.’

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Bridge Theatre. Tickets for events like these
  • Have you seen this show? Let us know what you thought in the comments below
  • Enjoyed this review? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham, email neildurham3@gmail.com and check us out on Instagram and Facebook


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