Who's In 'The Normal Heart?' The Cast Includes The Hulk, One Pretty Woman, & A Dillon Panther

Be prepared to see your favorite actors in a completely new way. Ryan Murphy's The Normal Heart premieres on HBO on May 25, and it's already receiving a ton of buzz. The Murphy-directed teleplay, which was adapted by Larry Kramer from his own Tony award-winning play, is about the first months of the AIDS epidemic as seen through the lens of the fictional gay activist and writer Ned Weeks. Weeks organizes a movement to fight back against the disease that is killing members of the gay community. While the characters are fictional, they are all based on the lives of gay AIDS activists and their allies in the medical community. And because this is HBO, these men and their allies are played by a cast of people that you've seen in a multitude of other projects, though you may be surprised to see some of them take on such heavy roles.

The film tackles an incredibly difficult subject with such heart and care and the cast is a huge credit to Kramer's important work. And while the film jumps back to the 1980s and the discovery of AIDS, it sheds light on the very stark reality, which is that the virus is still a global issue and that a cure has yet to be found. Thanks to HBO, the story of AIDS and the continuing crusade to find its cure finds a voice at the hands of this incredible cast.

Ned Weeks

Mark Ruffalo portrays Weeks in the film version of The Normal Heart, and it's a far cry from his days as an Avenger. Though the actor has tackled serious drama with roles in Zodiac and Shutter Island, this role stands out from some of his more recent films, which are considerably lighter fare. Prior to his role as Bruce Banner in The Avengers franchise, he starred in lighter dramas like the sex addiction film Thanks For Sharing and The Kids Are All Right. This is an exciting step for Ruffalo's career and he knocks it out of the park.

Dr. Emma Brookner

Julia Roberts also stars in the film as a doctor with polio who treats AIDS patients even before the disease has a name. Though Roberts told The Huffington Post that she initially declined the role in The Normal Heart , a documentary on polio changed her mind — she stated that she was better able to relate to her character's struggle after learning more about the disease. Roberts has most recently received critical acclaim for her role in the Oscar-nominated August, Osage County and this role can only add to that.

Tommy Boatright

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Several TV stars are also rounding out the cast. The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons reprises his role from the 2011 Broadway revival of Kramer's play as gay activist Tommy Boatwright, giving him a chance to show his acting chops outside of the CBS comedy once more.

Felix Turner

White Collar star Matt Bomer plays Weeks' lover Felix Turner and proves that he's not just a handsome man in a suit on a USA show.

Bruce Niles

Taylor Kitsch of Friday Night Lights takes a break from flat roles like his past turns in John Carter and Savages to plays an activist in Weeks' group, Bruce Niles, who loses a loved one to the then-new virus.

Craig Donner

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Jonathan Groff of Looking — and formerly of Murphy's Fox drama Glee — plays a small role as Niles' lover Craig in the production, which is to be expected since Murphy is a fan of promoting folks from the Glee family.

Though all of these actors have been praised for their individual roles, most are stepping into a new genre or medium with The Normal Heart. Parsons is best known for his role as Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, Bomer and Groff are better known for their light TV dramas, and Kitsch has primarily worked on action films.

The Normal Heart will bring us an eclectic group of actors we already know we love in a brand new way. It's a tough subject to tackle, but with a group of accomplished actors, Kramer's play is brought to magnificent life on the small screen.

Images: HBO (5)