Fellow Travelers: Is Marcus Hooks Based on a Real Journalist?

In Showtime’s historical series ‘Fellow Travelers,’ Marcus Hooks is a journalist and friend of Hawkins “Hawk” Fuller, one of the protagonists. Marcus is an integral part of Hawk’s social and intimate circle in Washington D.C. The journalist is also one of the few people who knows that Hawk is a gay man. The premiere episode of the romantic show ends with Marcus, along with other journalists, getting stunned to know about President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Executive Order to investigate and remove gay employees from federal services. Since Marcus is an integral presence in Hawk’s life, we have dived into the origin of the character to find out whether he has a real-life counterpart.

The Black Gay Journalist

Marcus Hooks is not based on a real journalist. The character was conceived by series creator Ron Nyswaner and his team to explore the threat faced by the gay community in the 1950s through an African-American lens. Marcus is also not a part of the narrative of Thomas Mallon’s eponymous source novel. “He [Marcus] goes from this closeted man, not loving himself, to completely in love and embracing not only Black culture but the fact that he’s a homosexual man,” Jelani Alladin, who plays the journalist in the period drama, summarized his character’s arc to EW.

The 1950s, in particular, was a tough period for queer individuals. The decade witnessed the rise of the Lavender Scare, the moral panic of the federal government which believed that gay/lesbian people were exposed to the influence of the communists due to their “weak moral characters.” Although the government’s primary targets were gay/lesbian personnel in the federal service, same-sex relationships were considered “sexual perversion,” which prevented gay people like Marcus from coming out. He only expresses his true feelings in an underground bar in Washington D.C. while fearing the possibility of police officers barging into the place any minute.

Alladin, as a Black artist, did contribute to Marcus’ identity as an Afrian-American gay man. “[It’s] that struggle of, where is my loyalty? I have to be a Black man first because that’s what is needed and expected of me from my community,” Nyswaner said in the same EW interview about the character. “Jelani and I had conversations where he would read to me from his journal that he kept in the voice of Marcus. Sometimes I would say, ‘Can I put that in the scene?’ So, that was a really beautiful collaboration,” he added.

Marcus’ principal storyline revolves around his relationship with Frankie Hines, a drag performer. Through their togetherness, Alladin hopes to connect with the real life. “There’s also something so powerful in telling this story to the world right now in the hope of either educating or simply revealing to those who don’t understand that love can happen in all shapes, sizes, and forms, and be inside of all people,” the actor told Out. “And that it should not be something that is limited by law or limited by the venom of segregation,” he added.

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