The 28 Barbary Lane family has lost one of its own. Marcus D’Amico, who played Michael ‘Mouse’ Tolliver (some say, everyone’s favourite ‘Mouse’) in the original Tales of the City miniseries died recently at the age of 55. 

The 1993 groundbreaking mini series based on Armistead Maupin’s novels was one of the first mainstream television series to have positive portrayals of LGBTQI characters. Set in San Francisco, the novels and the series, lovingly explored the gay community and culture in the city. 

Sister breaks news of death

D’Amico died on December 16 of pneumonia in Oxfordshire, England. The news became public when the actor’s sister Melissa D’Amico, who heads the UK-based acting agency APA Talent, posted about her brother’s death on Instagram. 

“Not only have I lost my beautiful brother but the world has lost an incredibly talented actor and director. Words cannot express how much I miss him,” the Instagram post said. 

Born in Germany to an American father and British mother, Marcus was brought up in the UK, where he made his debut on stage.

Though the original 1993 series was his breakout role, Marcus did not reprise the role in the sequels. Actor Paul Hopkins was cast in More Tales of the City (1998) and Further Tales of the City (2001), while actor Murray Bartlett took on the role in Netflix’s 2019 Tales of the City

Everyone’s Favourite Mouse

It was Marcus’ portrayal of the role that had made the audience fall in love with the character. ‘Mouse’ was Every-gay-man, carefree, insecure and looking for love. More importantly, it was one of the first times that a gay man was portrayed in a positive role, shorn off the stereotypes that was prevalent at that time on television.

“In ‘93, a happy, healthy, gorgeous gay character on television was like water for the thirsty. Gay men were desperate for representation that wasn’t skeletal, doomed and dying. We were in awe of Maupin, high on E, haunted by grief and wishing Marcus D’Amico was our boyfriend,” DJ Stewart, who had once interviewed the dated the actor and later become friends with him, said on his blog.

Openly gay California State Senator Scott Weiner recalled that Marcus’ portrayal had a huge impact on him. “This is a terrible tragedy. Tales of the City – particularly Mouse – was a huge influence on me as a newly out young gay man & was one of the reasons I fell in love with San Francisco even before I moved here,” Weiner posted on Twitter. 

“I’m not going to say that Marcus D’Amico in Tales of the City made me gay, but he was absolutely adorable. RIP,” said actor Matt Young. 

“This is heart-breaking. If it’s possible to fall in love with a character, Marcus D’Amico’s ‘Mouse’ Tolliver was my first and only. For a closeted 17 year old, this was the first attractive, happy and confident gay man I’d ever seen on screen. So much more than a role model,” said another post on Twitter. 

Besides Tales of City, Marcus was also seen in Superman II, Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket and recently in the series The Alienist. He was nominated in 1992 for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor for his portrayal on stage of Louis in Angels In America

In an interview, Maupin had revealed the reason Marcus did not return to the role in the sequels. “Despite the rumors, it is not true that Marcus D’Amico wasn’t invited back because of issues surrounding his sexuality. The production team met with Marcus and he expressed “ambivalence” about returning to the role of Mouse. The director felt it was important to find someone who would enthusiastically embrace the role,” said Maupin. 

Marcus had played some iconic gay characters, but had never discussed his sexuality in public. In a 2003 interview he acknowledged that people still recognised him as ‘Mouse’ and working on the series was “Exhausting, enlightening and challenging.”. Asked about being typecast, he responded: “I did get typecast in gay roles but it now no longer worries me.”

Vale, Marcus D’Amico!

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