Andrew Garfield has opened up about his role as Jonathan Larson in Netflix’s Tick, Tick… BOOM!

The 2021 film adaptation, which marks Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut, is based on the semi-autobiographical musical of the same name by Larson, who is best known for writing and composing the classic LGBTQ+ musical Rent.

Tick, Tick… BOOM! takes place in 1990 and follows the late theatre composer as he juggles work at the Moondance Diner in Soho while preparing for a workshop of his musical Superbia, which he has been working on for eight years.

The incredible supporting cast includes Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesús, Vanessa Hudgens, Joshua Henry, Judith Light, Mj Rodriguez, Bradley Whitford, Joanna P. Adler, Noah Robbins, Ben Ross, Beth Malone and Joel Grey.

For his performance as Larson, Garfield has received widespread critical acclaim and is even receiving Oscar buzz. Speaking exclusively with GAY TIMES about the role, the actor says it was important for him to “honour” Larson and his contributions to musical theatre.

“He gets to the heart of things. He opens the wounds up and dives in,” explains Garfield. “He makes them beautiful, somehow, and he honours them.

“He honours the struggle of what it is to be a human being and it’s through the lens of him as a musical theatre writer being surrounded by his community, which is an incredibly diverse community of artists, dancers and waiters. You see it in what he creates with Rent. This film, I think, honours that.”

Tick, Tick… BOOM! also depicts the adversity faced by the LGBTQ+ community at the time as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the “terrible humanity” of Ronald Reagan’s homophobic administration, adds Garfield.

The former GAY TIMES cover also star says he wanted to portray Larson because of his “satirical, funny, creative and inventive” artistry.

“The other thing is, you get to tell the story about the life of a great artist and a universal one,” he continues.

“An artist that didn’t get to see his own success, an artist who carried on creating in the face of rejection, in the face of poverty, in the face of a real destitution that he was living in in the east village in New York in the 90s; which he romanticised but it was still a struggle.

“What’s not to love about that kind of story? I think we all wish we could live as purely and as full of integrity as John.” 

Larson, who identified as heterosexual, was “sensitive” to conversations surrounding heterosexual creators telling queer stories, Garfield also admits, because he didn’t want to offend his queer circle of friends.

“He was concerned because he had written this thing and he called in two of his friends, who happened to be gay and one of them was HIV positive,” explains Garfield. “He said, ‘Look, I’ve written this thing and want to play it for you because I don’t know if this is my story to tell. I want to get your read on it, because I’m very passionate about it but I’m also second guessing myself slightly.’

“So, he brought them into his apartment and sat at his keyboard in his pyjamas and did the one-man show of Rent for these two very close friends of his that he relied on for their artistic and social opinion.”

Garfield says Larson’s friends were “sobbing by the end of it” and encouraged him to make Rent and “give it to the world”.

As a Drag Race stan and former guest judge, we had to ask the star about the current UK season and who he wants to take home the crown. Sadly, Garfield reveals that he isn’t up to date with the British spin-off because of the plethora of Drag Race content we’ve received this year and is still working his way through All Stars 6.

“Don’t spoil, because I haven’t started it yet, so don’t you dare! Don’t you dare spoil!” he instructs us. “I’m actually catching up on the most recent All Stars which I’m thoroughly enjoying but… Season two, man. How do you even beat season two? The Bimini and Lawrence head-to-head was a nail biter. But yeah, put it in my veins. Put it in my veins!”

Although a winner of All Stars 6 has already been crowned, Andrew says he’s rooting for Ginger Minj and Eureka O’Hara. No one tell him a goddamn thing.

Tick, Tick… Boom! is now available to stream on Netflix.

You can watch GAY TIMES’ interview with Andrew Garfield in full here or below.