Great news for E. Lynn Harris fans around the world. HBO is currently creating a scripted series that will be based on the Invisible Life novel collection. The trilogy of books includes the original that started it all, Invisible Life, along with Just As I Am and Abide With Me.
Playwright Harrison David Rivers, who received his MFA from Columbia School of the Arts, will write the script and executive produce. Casting director and producer Proteus Spann (Soul Food) and Tracey Edmonds (Games People Play) will also join the executive producing team. Spann is also the owner/curator of the E. Lynn Harris brand, ensuring the memory of Harris lives on.
At the beginning of E. Lynn’s career, critics proclaimed that black people would never be interested in reading the things he wrote. Quite the contrary. He became recognized for his groundbreaking ability to vocalize difficult stories of out and closeted gay and bisexual men that crossed over to a heterosexual audience. Harris published seventeen works, including a memoir, and ten of his novels were consecutive New York Times Best Sellers.
In 2019, he was one of the first fifty people added to the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor at New York City’s Stonewall National Monument. Among his awards include the James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence, Blackboard Novel of the Year, and Sprague Todes Literary Award. While Harris died in July 2009 at the age of 54, he inspires many worldwide.
Impact of Harris and Invisible Life Series
While discussing the project, Spann states, “It has been the passion of my adult life to bring E. Lynn’s masterful storytelling to a broader audience. For many men, his books were a safe haven, a place where they could see themselves long before television and film would ever attempt to accurately portray the subject matter. It is women, however, who make up a majority of Harris’ fan base. For many women, his books became the first reference they could access privately and even begin to explore the possibility that their brothers, friends, lovers, and even husbands may be gay, bisexual, or leading a double-life.” I couldn’t agree more, Spann.
Reading, along with writing, was a way to escape the bleak facets of my reality at the time. I discovered E. Lynn Harris at a crucial point in my self-discovery. Most of the books on gay culture I read prior had predominantly white characters and perspectives. They didn’t resonate with me. Harris created a literary world that echoed the environment around me. I related heavily to the dynamic Raymond Tyler Jr had with his family. The whimsical, sassy persona of Kyle reminded me of my best friend. I often fantasised about Basil Hendersen and what it would be like to date such a man.
Aside from the well-written, arousing sex scenes, it empowered many to read about black gay characters who obtained personal success. Raymond is a lawyer. Basil is a professional athlete. Nicole Springer is a star Broadway diva. As I continued to engulf myself in the literary works of Harris, I became more unapologetic with my right to exist. Being gay didn’t make me worthless, unworthy of love, nor did it hinder my potential success. My personal favourites by Harris include Basketball Jones, In My Father’s House, Anyway the Wind Blow, Mama Dearest, and What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.
Casting suggestions for Invisible Life
While casting is yet to be determined or released, here are some selections of my own. As Raymond Tyler Jr., actor and activist Dimitri Moise. Singer, songwriter and dancer Avery Wilson could be another option. Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes could be the chiselled body, walking dream Basil Hendersen. Nicole Springer, songstress supreme with a heart of gold, could be played by Jade Novah or even Syesha Mercado.