Let’s be honest, Christmas rom-coms haven’t been the most inclusive movies. Mainly that’s because Hallmark had a stranglehold on the genre. However, with Lifetime and Netflix entering the ring, we’ve seen more stories featuring Black families and LGBTQ characters.
In Netflix’s Single All the Way, Philemon Chambers represents as the first Black actor to star in an LGBTQ Christmas rom-com.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Chambers discusses the importance of his role and how it changed his feelings about himself.
The actor auditioned for the role after getting through a rough bout with Covid-19.
“Two weeks after I got better from COVID, that’s when the audition came,” he said. “And I remember having this conversation with myself of, ‘If I’m going to do it, and if I want this to be my career, then I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.’”
Single All the Way follows all the familiar Christmas movie patterns with one exception, the three leads are gay men, one of whom Chambers plays.
Per the official description: “Desperate to avoid his family’s judgment about his perpetual single status, Peter (Michael Urie) convinces his best friend Nick (Philemon Chambers) to join him for the holidays and pretend that they’re now in a relationship. But when Peter’s mother (Kathy Najimy) sets him up on a blind date with her handsome trainer James (Luke Macfarlane)— the plan goes awry.”
In case you’re new to Christmas movies, Nick has been in love with Peter all along, but of course Peter is completely blind to Nick’s feelings. The film co-stars fan favorites Kathy Najimy, Jennifer Coolidge and Barry Bostwick.
“These iconic people that I have looked up to for such a long time, I am now getting to work alongside of,” Chambers said.
While some may not understand the importance of a movie like Single All the Way, Chambers is well aware of the impact it can have.
“When I grew up, I didn’t have a positive outlook on a gay Black man, especially in film and TV. Now that is a thing, not only with myself playing Nick in Single All the Way, but also with Brian [Tyree Henry] playing a Black, gay superhero in Eternals,” he said. “I just love that we have representation now.”
He also understands why his representation as a lead is so ground-breaking.
“Netflix is breaking a lot of barriers with this,” Chambers said. “This is exactly the kind of thing I needed to see when I was younger. In Hollywood, a lot of things have been portrayed as very stereotypical, or it’s the coming-out story. Or there’s some negative connotation behind it. And this was so refreshing. My character, Nick, has a successful career and is doing successful things.”
“Back in the day,” he continued, “and I’m new to the industry, but Michael remembered it too, you couldn’t really say who you were openly without judgment. And within the past five years, it’s becoming a thing [to be openly gay]. With Marvel having their first black gay character in Eternals, I mean, that speaks volumes from where we were. And I really cannot wait to see what happens in the next five years, when it will be normalized versus this thing that has to be a thing.”
Perhaps most important of all, the film has helped Chambers understand himself better.
“Going through this role with Nick, I became accepting of myself even more,” he said. “When you do learn to fully embrace who you are, a lot of different avenues in your life do open up.”
Single All the Way is streaming on Netflix.