'When We Rise' captures the struggles of LGBT men and women

NEW YORK (WABC) -- "When We Rise" aims high to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights through the eyes of some of the real people who made history.

"The show's not about politics and policy, and it's not about debate. This is an introduction: a long overdue introduction," Dustin Lance Black, the series' writer-producer, said.

Black won an Oscar for writing "Milk," which starred Sean Penn as the late, gay politician Harvey Milk, and then he turned to television.

"You gotta tell a story that hits the heart, and so this shouldn't feel like medicine. This should feel like it's hitting your heart, and you're meeting new people who you want to know," he said.

The creator of "When We Rise" borrowed a structure from "Roots" 40 years after it changed the face of television - an epic told over a single week in prime time using two different sets of actors to play the same characters first as young people and then decades later.

"It's this immersive event through which time will pass, and people will grow, and history will kind of swirl around," actress Rachel Griffiths said.

Guy Pierce plays Cleve Jones, the brains behind the AIDS quilt, which he called the NAMES Project to honor those who had died from the disease. One who knows Jones told me that Pierce captured the grief of so many.

"The way you enter the story through these people in a very humane kind of way, I think that's what's relatable about it," Pierce said.

The mini-series doesn't shy away from splits within the community that slowed momentum such as when lesbians broke with gay men.

Power had its price - a broader story told in each individual.

"When We Rise" airs all week at 9:00 p.m. on Channel 7.

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Jennifer Matarese interviews Dustin Lance Black.

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