Exclusive Interview: Philemon Chambers & Michael Urie on starring in Netflix’s first gay Christmas rom-com Single All The Way

Ahead of the launch of Netflix’s first gay Christmas rom-com, Single All The Way, on Thursday December 2nd, The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann spoke with the movie’s screenwriter Chad Hodge, and stars Kathy Najimy, Jennifer Coolidge, and Jennifer Robertson. Today we share our final Single All The Way interview with the film’s leading men Michael Urie and Philemon Chambers.

Philemon Chambers as Nick and Michael Urie as Peter in Single All The Way. Photo credit: Philippe Bosse/Netflix © 2021.

Urie has long been a natural scene-stealer in television roles like the iconic Marc St. James on Ugly Betty, and on shows like Modern Family, The Good Wife, Younger, and Workaholics, but it’s a thrill to see him take on a romantic lead role in Single All The Way. His stage work has seen him give a tour-de-force performance as Alex in Jonathan Tolins’ hilarious and touching one man play Buyer & Cellar, which he revived virtually last year as a live-stream, raising over $200,000 for Broadway Cares. On Broadway he starred in the Tony-nominated revival of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song and most recently he appeared in Douglas Lyons’ Chicken and Biscuits.

Chambers has been acting since he was a teenager after being inspired by a trip to see The Lion King on Broadway when he was six-years-old. He’s appeared on television shows such as All Rise, Cold Case, Criminal Minds, The Forgotten, Good Luck Charlie, and No Ordinary Family, and makes his impressive feature film debut opposite Michael Urie in Single All The Way.

Philemon Chambers as Nick, Jennifer Coolidge as Aunt Sandy, and Michael Urie as Peter in Single All The Way. Photo credit: Philippe Bosse/Netflix © 2021.

James Kleinmann, The Queer Review: Michael, as queer folks we tend to associate the holidays, especially going back to our families, with a bit of anxiety for various reasons. What did you make of Chad Hodge’s approach with his screenplay for Single All The Way?

Michael Urie: “I found it incredibly refreshing that Chad was able to write a Christmas movie about a single gay guy going home for the holidays and he didn’t need to put in any homophobia, it didn’t need to be about coming out, and there’s no shame anywhere in this movie. It is not a traumatic experience. My character’s problem is that he’s single, it’s not that he’s gay, and his family’s problem is that he’s single, they have no problem with being gay.”

“I think it was much easier for Chad to find comedy because of that approach. You take out that elephant in the room and things can be funnier. I always feel like it’s so easy when you think about a gay story to lean on what makes us different from straight people, but Chad was so smart to not include any of that and I think Netflix encouraged that, to make this a movie about how they’re still family and the difference is he’s single.”

Philemon Chambers as Nick in Single All The Way. Photo credit: Philippe Bosse/Netflix © 2021.

Philemon, what might a movie like this have meant to you growing up?

Philemon Chambers: “If I’d had a movie like this growing up, I think I would have accepted myself way sooner. I think I would have been in a place to try to articulate myself, because growing up I hid who I was. I did not accept who I was until I hit about 21 when I came out to my mom and my dad and got that weight off my shoulders about who I am as a person and then got to experience the full me versus a version of myself. I feel like if I’d had this when I was younger things would be so much different.”

Love! Valour! Compassion! (1997).

This film is going to mean a lot to so many LGBTQ+ folks of all different ages, but when did each of you first feel seen or represented on screen and can you remember what that felt like?

Michael Urie: “I remember watching the movie of Love! Valour! Compassion!, based on the Terrence McNally play, which came out in the 90s when I was in high school. That’s an epic movie about gay men at a country house for a weekend and they fight and they love and it’s really sexy, and it’s really intense. It’s set during the height of AIDS, so there’s this dark cloud over the movie. I remember thinking, I see myself in these characters. It titillated me, it excited me, but it also scared me. In a lot of ways there’s been an idea that gay characters could only exist on screen or on stage with some kind of cloud. I saw Single All The Way and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m that guy’, and I was literally that guy!”

Ugly Betty. AP Photo/ABC.

“When I was in Ugly Betty, my character Marc was extremely flamboyant, very out, and he put on masks. A lot of that was because he thrust himself out of the closet. He had a mother who didn’t accept him and there are characters who maybe came from homes that were not supportive, that forced them to come out guns blazing. As opposed to a character like Peter in this film, who comes from an accepting household. We’re not in a world without homophobia, but we can present worlds without homophobia, we can have shows like Schitt’s Creek and movies like Single All The Way that exist in a community without homophobia. I know that’s not the case for everybody. I’m hoping that there are people who go home for Christmas this year and watch Single All The Way with their family and it feels routine, it feels normal—it is it is the highlight of Christmas, of course—but that it’s not some new idea. When my family sat down and watched Ellen come out of the closet on her sitcom that was a big deal, and I’m hoping that Single All The Way is one of many joys that families experience this Christmas.”

Noah’s Arc. Courtesy Logo TV and Patrik-Ian Polk Entertainment. David Cooper Photography.

Philemon Chambers: “I’ve always had an issue answering that question because the representation that I saw earlier on in life, especially from a Black queer standpoint, was very negative. It was either you had to be down-low or there was something that was wrong. I remember seeing Noah’s Arc and the character Wade I resonated with because he was just very much himself. That’s when I noticed that being queer was a spectrum. You didn’t have to just be one way because of how they depicted Black queer characters back in the day, which was flamboyant. There was nothing wrong with that, how you identify as how you identify, but that wasn’t me and I didn’t see myself. Like Michael said, when I saw Single All The Way for the first time I was like, ‘That’s me!’ It was that moment of, ‘Okay, this is what I’ve been looking for!’ I feel immensely proud and I thank Netflix, I thank Chad Hodge for allowing us to be these vessels for these characters and also to be part of a new side of representation.”

Watch the full interview below:

Interview: Michael Urie & Philemon Chambers on Netflix’s first gay holiday romcom Single All The Way

By James Kleinmann

Single All The Way launches globally on Netflix on Thursday December 2nd 2021.

Single All The Way | Official Trailer | Netflix

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