Cast and team behind ‘All Boys Aren’t Blue’ dramatic reading on importance of visibility

EXCLUSIVE: The team breaks down the importance of their new reading and what they hope audiences will take away from 'All Boys Aren't Blue'

From features on Good Morning America to Gabrielle Union optioning the television rights, All Boys Aren’t Blue left an incredible impact last year, and it looks like George M. Johnson’s bestselling memoir will continue to find new audiences in creative and groundbreaking ways in 2021.

An All Boys Aren’t Blue dramatic reading is set to air today, Monday, Feb. 8 as part of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s BLACC/NBHAAD programming in honor of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, which was yesterday. This fully realized reading is directed by Nathan Hale Williams and narrated by the legendary Jenifer Lewis. It stars Dyllón Burnside, Thomas Hobson, and Bernard David Jones.

TheGrio sat down with Johnson, Williams, and the three talented actors starring in the reading ahead of its premiere. In an enlightening conversation, the team opened up about what the memoir means to them, what the creative process was like adapting the piece and what they hope audiences will glean from the reading.

All Boys Aren't Blue
All Boys Aren’t Blue Cast (Credit: screenshot)

“This team has literally brought their A game to every aspect of this,” director Williams shared with theGrio. “Starting off with an amazing work by George, amazing performances by the talent, and our post-production team is working overtime to make it look as fly as possible.” 

This adaptation of All Boys Aren’t Blue features three chapters from the best-selling memoir, each read by a different actor, and features a visual component that sets it apart from your typical reading. When choosing the chapters for the reading, Johnson explained, “Chapter 1, chapter 7, and chapter 14,…all three of those chapters are very important numerically in the way that I write, and they highlight three different points in my life.”

He further explained, “If we had to choose three chapters to try and sum up what the totality of my story was, those were the best three to give you each version of me. I think each chapter brings its own special thing to it…you can see the growth in me from chapter 1, to chapter 7, to chapter 14.”

All Boys Aren't Blue
Bernard David Jones / All Boys Aren’t Blue (Credit: screenshot)

The actors featured in the special each had their own connection and reaction when first reading Johnson’s memoir. Burnside, who currently stars in FX’s Pose, told theGrio, “It’s really great to come into contact with material that speaks to the experience that I’ve had. Even though in the specifics of them, they may be different…for many Black queer kids, you often feel like you’re the only one. Reading George’s words made me feel seen, in a way that little Dyllón maybe didn’t know that it was possible to be seen when he was 6 or 7.”

Jones, who had already read and loved the book, wanted to be a part of the reading the second he knew Johnson was involved.

“I was just like, is George involved? Okay, George is involved, yes I’m down!” Jones said.

He also had a very personal connection to the chapter he performs in the reading. “Even in getting the chapter that I got which is “The Nanny”, it was parallel to my life already. I grew up with my grandmother as well, she was very instrumental in my upbringing…my relationship with my grandmother is very similar to George’s relationship with his Nanny, so I felt very blessed,” he told theGrio.

“It was like someone reached into my soul,” Hobson shared with theGrio of reading the memoir. “The great thing about the book and the special is that you don’t have to have had the exact experience, but you are going to feel yourself in all of these moments.”

He goes on to say, “Especially as a queer Black guy, all of us have been told at some point…I’m ‘just not Black enough, or manly enough, or this enough, or that enough.’ It just felt like George was siphoning things from my mind…it was really quite magical.”

All Boys Aren't Blue
In “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence and college years in New Jersey and Virginia in a collection of personal essays. (Credit: Macmillan)

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While the team has been hard at work putting this special together, it is almost ready to finally reach its audience, and each of them have hopes in terms of what people will take away from the reading. Jones shared, “I want audiences to take away empathy from people…I want those who are queer to feel seen, to feel valued and understand that there are people in the world having similar experiences to you.”

Similarly, Burnside hoped, “audiences will come into this with an open mind with what entertainment is and what it can be…it requires that the audience engages with the language, and the words and story.”

Johnson expressed to theGrio, “The one thing I want people to take away from this, is to remember there is a person to the left of you, and to the right of you that could be going through the same experience.” He explained, “I hope they take the time to actually take the time to get to know people, rather than assuming or putting societal pressures and standards on them that may not be what their truth is.”

‘BLACC & iN-Hale Ent. present ALL BOYS AREN’T BLUE by George M. Johnson,’ is set to begin at 8 P.M. To register for the free event, visit here.  

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