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‘A Kid Like Jake’ star Jim Parsons on how young generations are creating a better future

In “A Kid Like Jake,” Jim Parsons departs from his famous “Big Bang Theory” role to play Greg Wheeler, the other half of a struggling couple grappling with the idea that their 4-year-old son is exhibiting gender-nonconforming behavior. As Greg struggles to understand what this might mean for his son’s future, his wife, Alex (Claire Danes), for the most part is adamant that it’s nothing more than innocent role play.

While the parents are encouraged to lean on Jake’s uniqueness to get him into a New York private school, the couple starts to re-examine their own roles in their son’s life. We recently spoke with Parsons, ahead of the film’s release on Friday.

It feels as if it’s only been in the past few years that, as a society, we’ve allowed the conversation about gender nonconformity into the mainstream. And I think it’s because of work like this.

I agree. I felt very strongly and I still do. The most beautiful thing Daniel [Pearle] did in writing this was [how he] framed the issue. He framed it in a way that made it so relatable — just another aspect of raising a human being. There’s something very disarming about that to me. It takes a little bit of mystery and a little bit of fear away from a topic that could feel very lonely. The movie doesn’t offer any answers or solutions, but what it does is make it OK to ask dumb questions, to fumble with something that you don’t fully understand. What you can understand is that as a human being, with the best intentions, you’re still going to slip, fall and fumble, and that has to be OK.

We’ve had influencers in culture challenge the way people think about gender roles. What do you think the next generation will bring?

Oh, man. It’s so interesting, isn’t it? I was watching back in March, after the [Parkland,] Florida school shooting, and it was just so moving to see a younger generation taking to the streets, on their feet, and speaking so eloquently and passionately. As a 45-year-old gay man, who’s been able to be an “out” and working actor, I feel grateful for the time I grew up in, but . . . I feel like there’s a level of inclusiveness and openness to all sorts of human beings that we’ve never seen as a society before. Even in our best of times, we’ve never quite known it to the level we might know it in the next 15 or 20 years, as this generation comes into prominence and power. You get that impression that you’re dealing with a whole generation that has grown up thinking it’s not OK to slander people for being gay and more recently, slander people for gender fluidity. It’s a different world and it sounds like, quite possibly, a better world.

In response to that, it seems like parents are trying to be cognizant of gender messaging, too.

I think you’re absolutely right. If you know that you need to talk about people and aspects of the world in order to attract those young eyes and young dollars, I’ll take that as a starting point because that can, in the end, snowball into real change at a cellular level.

What Jake’s parents are struggling with in this film is something that some parents have to contend with. Did you get to speak with any parents that are?

Not many but I will say, the little boy Leo [James Davis] who plays Jake, he in many ways is quite similar to the character, in that he enjoys wearing some of the princess outfits and enjoys the painted nails. His parents went through a hell of a time with one of the schools they were in, even here in New York, where they were not OK with him wearing girls’ clothes to school, and they ended up in a real battle. It was interesting because no one was trying to dictate whether Leo was gender fluid or gender curious. It was really just Leo being Leo. It did show the many hurdles; it’s difficult to get people in agreement as to what it is they’re seeing and how to deal with it.

Given the relevancy, I was going to bring up the Broadway show “The Boys in the Band,” but I heard you suffered an injury. Aside from that, how has it been?

I did. I fractured my foot during curtain call, but it’s been a real joy. It’s been a very unique experience. I’ve never worked with eight other gay male actors, and I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a special camaraderie we have. I can’t necessarily put my finger on it exactly, but there’s a real unity and bond. I feel so very fortunate for it.

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