Yvonne Villarreal">

TCA: Ryan Murphy wears 'Normal Heart' on his sleeve for HBO

TCA: Ryan Murphy wears 'Normal Heart' on his sleeve for HBO
Director/executive producer Ryan Murphy, left, and actors Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons and Taylor Kitsch speak onstage during the 'The Normal Heart' panel discussion at the Television Critics Assn. tour at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena. (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

His current repertoire consists of plucky glee club singers and horror-tastic witches. But come May, TV everyman Ryan Murphy will be presenting a more somber story to viewers in the HBO play-to-telepic adaptation of Larry Kramer's "The Normal Heart."

Kramer's groundbreaking semi-autobiographical play about the early years of the AIDS crisis made its off-Broadway debut in 1985. Film adaptations have long been rumored, but it was not until recently that anything came to fruition.

Murphy bought the rights to the play in 2010, joking that he took out a second mortgage to do so. He directed and produced the project, which is set between 1981 and 1984, and worked on the script with Kramer for three years -- estimating that about 45% of the movie will be new material. The May premiere was announced by HBO Thursday, ahead of the film's panel at the Television Critics Assn. media tour in Pasadena.

To say it's a passion project for Murphy, who is openly gay,  would be an understatement.

"I just really tried to be true to those boys who lost so much, who I feel I owe so much to," said Murphy, who was joined on the panel by the film's stars, including Mark Ruffalo and Julia Roberts. "I'm married, I have a child. I really feel it’s a civil rights movie. I feel very indebted to them. I just think it’s a very painful chapter in our lives."

He wasn't the only one touched by its story. Matt Bomer, the openly gay actor who plays the AIDS stricken boyfriend of Ruffalo's character, said the play was his first introduction to the disease.

"I read it in the closet of my drama room when I was 14 years old, and the irony of that is not lost on me. I grew up in the Bible Belt, and there was no talk of this."

Murphy said the film adaption of the play, which had a revival in 2011, comes at a very poignant time, with gay marriage in the news.

"This movie is about love, about people fighting for love and wanting to be treated equally," he said. "And that's very modern, and still happening today."