Michael Urie is ready to make the yuletide gay ― in both the literal and figurative sense ― as he returns to television this week.
The actor stars in “Single All the Way,” which has been touted as Netflix’s first gay holiday romantic comedy. He plays Peter, a neurotic Angeleno and social media strategist who invites his thus-far-platonic roommate, Nick (Philemon Chambers), back to his New England hometown for the holidays after his latest relationship goes south.
Before the pals disembark on their cross-country journey, however, Peter asks Nick to pose as his boyfriend so he can avoid the “why are you still single?” interrogation from family members like his dad (Barry Bostwick) and Aunt Sandy (Jennifer Coolidge, in peak scene-stealing mode). That plan falls to the wayside, however, when Peter’s mother (Kathy Najimy) sets him up on a date with a dashing ski instructor, James (Luke Macfarlane) ― and, much to his surprise, he has a great time.
“Single All the Way,” which premiered Thursday, is Netflix’s entry into what appears to be an industrywide shift toward more diverse holiday offerings. True to form, it doesn’t shy away from classic rom-com tropes, and a happy ending is guaranteed from the moment the opening credits roll.
But with its playful allusions to Grindr and “Instagays” ― not to mention winks at classic Britney Spears and Madonna moments ― the movie feels more plugged into contemporary queer culture than its predecessors. And Urie believes that as far as LGBTQ-inclusive films on mainstream platforms are concerned, the more, the merrier.
“That it’s taken this long to make romantic comedies about queer people at all ― much less Christmas movies ― is crazy to me,” he told HuffPost. “Netflix is about as big as you can get, and a lot of people are going to have access to this. And given that it’s a Christmas movie and a rom-com, I feel like people might be more willing to watch this movie knowing it has a happy ending and that it’s not going to be about trauma and homophobia.”
“It might just help people who are on the fence or who need a little nudge to be fully accepting of a family member, or to come all the way out of the closet,” he added.
Urie is, of course, no stranger to playing complex queer characters. He shot to fame in 2006 as fashion mag assistant Mark St. James on “Ugly Betty,” and, more recently, starred in a Broadway revival of Harvey Fierstein’s landmark queer drama “Torch Song” as a drag performer coming to terms with his gay identity and intolerant mother in late 1970s New York. His off-Broadway portrayals of an early LGBTQ rights activist in 2009’s “The Temperamentals” and Barbra Streisand’s beleaguered employee in the 2013 one-man comedy “Buyer & Cellar” were outstanding.
Interestingly, Urie said when he first received the script for “Single All the Way,” producers were considering him for the role of Nick. Instead, he gravitated to the role of Peter and, once he suggested that option to writer Chad Hodge and director Michael Mayer, both agreed it was a better fit.
It was only after Urie was cast as Peter that he realized he was fulfilling his lifelong dream of playing a romantic comedy lead who happens to be gay.
“I’ve been in TV shows about coming out,” he said. “I’ve been in projects about gay trauma and queer shame. All of those stories are important, but I feel really good about how this movie can show the world the way it should be. And that could be more useful to us right now than a cautionary tale.”
Still, “Single All the Way” comes at a bittersweet time for Urie. The movie’s release trails the actor’s return to Broadway this fall in the ensemble comedy “Chicken & Biscuits.” The play, which featured a predominately Black cast and creative team, was heralded as part of Broadway’s rebirth after the unprecedented 18-month pandemic closure.
However, several performances had to be suspended last month after multiple company members experienced breakthrough cases of COVID-19, and it never recouped the subsequent financial loss. It concluded its run last weekend, more than a month ahead of its original Jan. 2, 2022, closing date.
Still, Urie is grateful to be employed when many of his peers in Hollywood and on Broadway have been less fortunate. And he’s hopeful he’ll one day be able to reprise the role of Peter in a “Single All the Way” sequel if one is made.
“I love the story of Peter and Nick, and would love to see what happens next,” he said. “Hint, hint, Netflix!”
“Single All the Way” is now streaming on Netflix. Catch the trailer below.