Roomates (or Roommates) is a TV film written by Robert W. Lenski and directed by Alan Metzger. It was never released on DVD.
Two men with AIDS, one a heterosexual ex-con, the other a homosexual, Harvard-educated professional, develop a close friendship while roommates at a residence for people living with the disease.
Eric Stoltz, Randy Quaid, Elizabeth Peña, Charles Durning, Frank Buxton, Jill Teed, Phil Hayes, Babs Chula
Orlando Sentinel, March 1994:
”The potential stigma never occurred to me,” says Stoltz of his role in Roommates, an NBC drama to air May 30. ”I thought it was a good project. When a good role comes along, you should do it, regardless of whether you agree with the politics of the character. I would have gladly played a Nazi in Schindler’s List.” (…)
In an interview with TV critics in Los Angeles in January, Quaid and Stoltz both expressed disappointment that Roommates wouldn’t be shown during a ”sweeps” period. The next one ends May 25.
”I don’t know why,” Quaid says. ”It’s part of the absurdity of how people deal with this issue. Roommates may not be the most popular thing to look at, or the most entertaining or exciting action piece, but it has real issues and deals with them realistically.”
Among those issues is homophobia. It exists, Stoltz says, ”because people are stupid and uneducated bigots. It takes awhile to break through those barriers, like it did for women, blacks and the disabled. People are inherently dumb. Whoa, someone stop me! This is why Randy should answer the questions.”
As for Roommates’ nonsweeps airdate, ”I’m befuddled,” Stoltz says. ”Maybe NBC feels they have much better movies to show. Maybe they’re afraid.”
Los Angeles Times, May 1994:
Stoltz wanted to do “Roommates” for a couple of reasons. “I liked the script and I knew Randy was doing it,” he says. “I respect him tremendously.” Ten years ago, the two appeared in the teen comedy “The Wild Life.” (…)
Before production began on “Roommates,” Stoltz and Quaid visited hospices in Los Angeles and Vancouver, where the film was shot.
“They were really quite amazing places,” says Stoltz, nibbling at his pasta. “In Vancouver, there was quite a lovely old Victorian home where they had created a schedule where one person would cook and one person would do this and that. Then as they got sicker, they would go to a different hospice that had more hospital facilities. I think Canada is far more advanced than we are about dealing with their health problems.”
Stoltz discovered that the majority of hospice residents were quite open about talking about their illnesses. Several patients worked as extras.
“I think they were a little bit excited that we were doing something to show people that they were still human beings and had lives. A few of them were quite insistent that we do not talk down to them or reduce them to stereotypes.”
Meeting these people, Stoltz says, made him want to do his best work possible. “I felt I’d a responsibility to these people and to represent them as accurately as possible. I can’t say it was a happy responsibility. I remember having quite disturbing dreams. But anytime you do a role where you confront a disturbing issue, especially your own mortality, it leaves you feeling disturbed, sad and strange.”
Stoltz acknowledges that it’s difficult to play a reserved, quiet character like Thomas. “Deep down you wish you had taken the showier part because it’s so much more fun chewing the scenery and letting it all hang out, as it were. But I think Randy was more suited for that role than I would have been because he looks like a big, blustery dockworker and I look much more like a lawyer and a pianist.”
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