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Netflix is finally about to unleash its gay Christmas film Single All The Way on the world – and it’s been a long time coming.
In Single All The Way, Michael Urie (Ugly Betty) plays Peter, a gay man who lives in Los Angeles with his best friend Nick (Philemon Chambers). After yet another romance falls through, Peter convinces Nick to pretend they’re in a relationship when they both return to his family home for the festive season.
At this stage, the Christmas romantic comedy is practically a genre of its own – each year, television studios and major Hollywood production companies churn out films to cash in on the holidays.
Sadly, those films are almost always very straight, very conservative and often very white – which is why Single All The Way feels so significant. The heartfelt comedy has queerness in its DNA – it’s not only funny, it’ll also make you feel that warm, tingly feeling you get when you feel represented in a genre that hasn’t always been known for diversity.
Michael Urie tells PinkNews that queer people have been “craving their own Christmas tales for a long time” – which is one of the reasons why Single All The Way has come at the perfect time.
“I’m really proud that we’re pioneering this with Netflix,” Michael says. “That’s pretty mainstream, and we’re going to be sharing a story about Christmas, about two gay men, and about a family and a town that are not homophobic, where there is no shame around being gay. It tells a story that isn’t about coming out of the closet or any kind of trauma – it’s just a guy who has been single and his family wants him to be coupled, and that’s the problem.
“That is so universal – there are already many holiday films about that, and now we have one about gay people that is hilarious and sweet and charming.”
Philemon Chambers echoes this – he says a film like this has been “needed for a really long time”.
“Partnering and being in this place with Netflix, this giant of a streaming service, and having their first gay holiday rom-com is a major thing,” Philemon says. “The many different levels of representation in it speak to everybody. I’m super excited.”
Queer films can sometimes feel like they’re made predominantly for straight audiences – but Single All The Way feels authentic in its representation. There are mentions of Grindr, Britney Spears and of “guncles”. That authenticity was by design, according to Philemon.
“The beautiful part is that me, Michael, our director and also our executive producer and our writer, we’re all queer – we’re all gay,” Philemon explains. “It was just one of those things where you had many different levels of voice – especially coming from a Black queer perspective, you had my voice, but then you had these mature, different voices that we had to work off of. It was just really great.”
Michael remembers a specific moment in filming when he realised just how important that authenticity was. He was talking to Canadian actor Adam Capriolo, who plays another gay character in the film, towards the end of the shoot when he realised how meaningful it was to be on a set full of queer people.
“[Adam] remarked to me, ‘It’s so fun being on such a gay set.’ I was like, ‘I know!’ There are lots of gay people on crews in movie sets and TV sets, but it’s predominantly straight. They’re wonderful, tolerant, lovely, delightful straight people, but they are predominantly straight. So when you’re a queer person guesting on a set, doing a couple of days on a movie that has been shooting for several weeks, and the executive producer is queer, the director is queer, number one, two and three on the call sheet are all queer – the set feels different, and I hadn’t thought about that until this wonderful actor showed up late in our shoot. The authenticity is easier because of how safe a set it is.”
A close, loving family is at the centre of the film – and there’s no homophobia in sight
Anyone who has watched a film about queer people will know that many of them focus on characters who are struggling to come to terms with their identities, or those who have to contend with homophobic families. Single All The Way consigns those tired stories to the dustbin – the family at the centre of the film is completely accepting and loving. For Philemon, that was important.
“When people watch the film, they can see what can happen if you just genuinely accept the people that are around you and love them unconditionally,” he says. “A lot of people throw around the word ‘love’, and they use it on a half-term basis. It’s always on a conditional standpoint, versus it being unconditional. When you love somebody, you love them unconditionally for who they are, you accept them for who they are. You may not understand, but you love them for who they are.”
He draws attention to a candid scene between him and Barry Bostwick, who plays Peter’s father Harold. In the scene, Harold says he always thought Peter and Nick should have been together.
“That speaks to me,” he says. “These are things we didn’t have growing up. We didn’t have representation like this on TV, we didn’t have representation like this on film. It was always from a homophobic standpoint, or something had to be wrong. To have that family support be genuine and positive meant a lot.”
Michael realised just how significant it was to have a supportive family at the centre of Single All The Way when he got a text from a friend who had just seen the trailer for the film.
“He said that the trailer almost made him cry because watching someone fall in love at Christmas around family feels to him like something that couldn’t happen,” Michael says. “He said, ‘I’ve always dreamed and prayed for a moment when I could bring my partner into my family Christmas’ – and he hasn’t been able to.
“Maybe his family will watch this movie and that will change. Or maybe somebody’s family will watch this movie and see what Christmas can be like without any homophobia, without any worrying about what somebody thinks, where affection is universal, and where someone like a character like Nick could get advice about love from someone like Barry Bostwick, an old white straight man. That is a beautiful thing, and that is something I am very excited we’re going to put out in the world, because it’s something we haven’t seen yet.
“Judging by my friend’s reaction to the trailer, it might really help some people.”
Single All The Way will be released on Netflix on 2 December.