In Showtime’s historical series ‘Fellow Travelers,’ Frankie Hines is a drag performer who works in an illegal gay bar located in Washington, D.C. Frankie meets Marcus Hooks, a journalist, at the bar and soon, they begin seeing each other. What starts as a fling quickly escalates into an emotional rollercoaster that affects their lives. Frankie is a proud queer person who embraces his identity in front of a homophobic world that has terrorized his partner. His inspiring life and resilience have made us ask ourselves whether the character is based on a real-life drag queen whose life is hidden in history!
Looking Through a Drag Lens
Frankie Hines is not based on a real drag performer. The character was conceived by creator Ron Nyswaner and his team of writers for the series. Nyswaner wanted his show to explore the era of Lavender and the Second Red Scare through a queer lens. To make it possible, he employs several queer characters from varying backgrounds. From a religious gay man to a drag queen, the creator uses diverse views and voices to dive into the queer experience of the 1950s, which makes the significance of Frankie evident. Through the character, the show depicts how hypermasculine society was decades ago.
Even though Frankie doesn’t have a real-life counterpart, he can be seen as a representative of all the drag queens who challenged the conventional notions of masculinity and gender within the queer scene in the twentieth century. People like Frankie did exist and through the fictional character, Nyswaner can be paying homage to a group who embraced varying personalities within themselves as the character does. “What I love about Frankie is that sometimes he feels like putting on a jacket and being butch and going out into the world, and other times he feels like painting his nails and letting his hair out,” Noah J. Ricketts, who plays the character, told EW about the same.
While reality didn’t inspire the creation of Frankie outrightly, Ricketts wants his character to affect the real world. “And playing Frankie, a character that was out and loud and proud with a glossy lip and a painted nail. It really forced me to look inward at the way I moved through the world and see if I’m coming out authentically, if I’m moving in the world authentically,” the actor told Out. “And so I hope that as people watch this, they ask themselves that question so we can break down these barriers of hypermasculinity and feeling like we have to change who we are to subscribe to societal norms,” he added.
The Post-War United States witnessed the growth of gay rights movements. Queer organizations like the Mattachine Society were founded to serve as the beacons of change and several activists rose to prominence. Through Frankie’s character arc, the show is also honoring such an inspiring history of queer rights movements. After dealing with several discriminatory experiences, Frankie becomes a political activist and starts to fight for the dignity and lives of the queer people who are forced to hide around him. In the second episode, we see a glimpse of the same as Frankie protests against two conservative men who shame Marcus for having a drag performer as his partner.
The fiction that shapes Frankie is highly rooted in the country’s history of the 1950s. Even though he is not based on a particular person, his life can be paralleled with the experiences of several queer people who fought against the system during the same period.