Showtime’s upcoming series Fellow Travelers featuring White Collar star Matt Bomer and Bridgerton alumn Jonathan Baily is a decade-spanning saga that follows the seductive, risky, and volatile relationship between political staffers Hawkins Fuller (Bomer) and Tim Laughlin (Bailey).
The two fall in love at the height of the 1950s Lavender Scare: a moral panic about homosexual activity in the United States government that led to the dismissal of several individuals from government positions in the mid-20th century. It also contributed to and paralleled the anti-communist campaign. Tied up in the Age of McCarthyism, the 1950s was one of political history’s most repressive and internal investigation-heavy periods, leading to an overwhelming and ceaseless sense of tension.
The trailer shows Bomer and Bailey at various ages — continuing an affair that they can’t resist, despite the fact that it threatens their very livelihoods. In the trailer, Bomer’s charismatic and flirtatious Hawkins tells Laughlin that they “lie about who [they] sleep with,” upon which Laughlin states, “not who we sleep with. It’s who we love.” Hawkins is Laughlin’s “great, consuming love.” As the trailer interweaves the duo running on the beach with the two dodging suspicions, it becomes clear that this miniseries will be a political drama meets romantic escapade… and it looks quite juicy.
As for the narrative at play, the show is based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Mallon, which was originally published in 2007.
What do we know about the ‘Fellow Travelers’ book and author?
The novel Fellow Travelers highlights the bare-knuckled ideology that defined 1950s McCarthyism. With larger-than-life characters like Richard Nixon and Joe McCarthy at the forefront, it was a time characterized by a pervasive atmosphere of fear, suspicion, and political repression. Everyone was a suspect and secret dossiers got passed around like cigarettes.
The novel taps into this anxiety-ridden period via the love story between two men in politics. Laughlin is a recent Fordham graduate and a devout Catholic ready to join the crusade against communism. However, his world is forever changed when he meets the handsome State Department Official, Hawkins Fuller. The two begin a love affair yet struggle to manage their double lives as McCarthy begins his hunt for “sexual subversives” in the government.
Author Thomas Mallon has been celebrated for his fiction works, including Henry and Clara, Two Moons, Bandbox, Dewey Defeats Truman, Aurora 7, and more. He is evidently no stranger to the historical fiction landscape, often weaving personal dramas into the pages of history. He also penned the nonfiction novel Mrs. Paine’s Garage and the Murder of John F. Kennedy.
Unnerving, steamy, intense, romantic, anxiety-catalyzing, reflective, and historically-contemplative, Fellow Travelers is worth a read before the Showtime series from decorated producer/writer Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia, The Painted Veil, Homeland, Ray Donovan) premieres on October 29, 2023.