One of the year’s best series, Showtime’s Fellow Travelers, concluded in spectacular fashion this month– just the way it landed.

Led by Matt Bomer and Jonathan Bailey, and based on the novel of the same name, the series revolves around a group of characters through different decades–“the Vietnam War protests of the 1960s, the drug-fueled disco hedonism of the 1970s and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s while facing obstacles in the world and within themselves.”

Jelani Alladin and Noah J. Ricketts star as Marcus Hooks and Frankie Hines. In the first time period, Marcus is introduced as a man who comes from a middle-class family in D.C. and is a journalist covering the Senate beat while confronting the racism he encounters each day. Ricketts’ Frankie is a drag performer who works in an underground gay nightspot frequented by Marcus and Bomer’s Hawk. As we go on in the series and through the years, Marcus and Frankie develop a years-long bond, some years together and others not, as they navigate through both personal trials and trials within their relationship,

Shadow and Act spoke with Alladin and Rickets to break down the season 2 finale, their characters’ arcs in the series overall and the importance of their characters’ roles as Black queer men during these years.

How do you think the actions of the finale prove to be full circle moments for both of your characters not only as far as their relationships but them as Black men reckoning with their identity?

Alladin: I think what’s beautiful for Marcus is that it’s not a full circle, it’s a direct ascension upwards. He ends the series miles from where he began, in love with himself, able to love another, and able to take a stand for his suffering community. He accepts his responsibilities as a Black elder and as a queer elder. He becomes the blueprint of a new archetype of Black man– strength and vulnerability in symbiosis, carrying the weight of multiple truths and living fully inside of his identities, free of shame or judgement– and that he finds all this with another Black man, is really the cherry on top.

Additionally, choosing to love Jerome unconditionally, taking him in his arms, making him understand that he is not to blame and then standing in protest with him, is the ultimate act of parenthood…an extremely rare act that I wish so many Black young queer people in this lifetime get to receive. We are so much stronger together.

Ricketts: I love that we see Marcus and Frankie living together in San Fran in the final episodes. The relationship is far from perfect…but it shows major evolution in the love they’ve developed for one another. I think as Black queer men– they realize that the bond they share is rare and sacred. So it’s beautiful to see them fighting for that love, decade after decade. 

What would you like to think happened to them in the years after the finale? 

Alladin: Earlier this year, everyone had a visceral, full-body reaction to Episode 3 of The Last of Us. I did as well [when] seeing those two men choose each other and live in love through their old days together. As I watched, I knew that Fellow Travelers was being edited and I thought about a similar fate for Marcus and Frankie— two Black men that choose each other and love each other through their final days on earth. That specific kind of relationship is something I have never seen portrayed in any piece of art to date involving two Black men. I like to believe together, they helped nurse young men through the AIDS crisis [and] maybe even started a foundation out of their home.

Ricketts: I would like to think Frankie goes even further into his activism. I think after Tim’s tragedy with AIDS, he would dive even deeper into his work at the AIDS clinic. I imagine Marcus would become more comfortable with his sexuality and express that in his academic works. 

Photo: Ben Mark Holzberg/SHOWTIME

What has working on this show meant and showing Black queer men during this time period that isn’t often depicted on television and film?

Alladin: I’ll start on a micro level. As an actor, this is the meat and potatoes I have been waiting for. [It is] a true showcase of the depth of my humanity and an example of the kind of high-level artistry I always want to be a part of. On a macro level, list me the names of Black queer characters in media that have had an impact, and I’d bet you would only come up with a handful…[and] now there are two more to add to the list…two more examples that hopefully give people the strength to exist unapologetically, two more examples that signal to an industry that audiences are starved for nuanced representation. It is no longer brave to depict these characters, it’s cowardly and harmless to leave them out. And to be clear, Marcus and Frankie do not represent the entire Black queer experience, they are two examples of millions of other experiences waiting to be unpacked.

I go back to my first Instagram post about the show: “This is for those whom the world wasn’t ready to receive. This is for those who lived and still live at the intersection of identity and survival. This is for those who couldn’t love because they weren’t taught to love themselves. This is for those who fought back to protect their lives and break the status quo. This is for, my fellow travelers”

Ricketts: I’ve always wanted to do work that matters…[not only that] matters to me, but more important matters to the audience watching it. For decades, I searched for people like me on television and in film. I always came up short. To be able to depict a ferocious, Black queer man on screen is one of the greatest gifts of my career. I am now taking on the roles that I desperately searched for. I hope that this is a signal to all those watching that our stories are worth being told. That quality queer content is needed. 

How do you think the finale is incredibly resonant during this time period as well? 

 We really think we’re past stories like this [and] that everyone is out here living their best lives, in their full authenticity, out, proud and protected…and that is a harmful and false narrative, especially if you aren’t white. There are so many people in America and around the world still living in bondage, still unable to love whomever they love, still prisoner[s] to the binaries of identity, still living in lies and secrets…out of fear for their safety. We have got to undo so many years of trauma and false programming and make the world a more inviting and inclusive place. I hope the show resonates as a warning and also a call to arms. Love should have no price tag, no label [and] no judgment.

Ricketts: There’s been this major resurgence of hate toward the queer community over the past few years, specifically toward the drag community. Political parties use provocative language to ignite fear and hatred toward queer people. In many ways, it feels like the McCarthy era. This piece serves as a reminder to all those watching…that we’ve come so far…and yet we’ve still got so far to go. If we forget the stories of our past, they are destined to be repeated in the future. That’s what I think is so beautiful about Fellow Travelers. It shines a light on a part of queer history that was erased from the history books so that we can create a better future. 

The entire season of Fellow Travelers is currently streaming and available on-demand via on Paramount+ with Showtime.