Pride month continues to be celebrated on Netflix with the arrival of creator and producer Jordon Nardino’s Glamorous on Thursday, June 22nd. Not only does the New York-set workplace comedy series have a queer character at its centre, in the form of the twenty-something gender nonconforming Marco played by former YouTube star turned actor and musician Miss Benny, but the show is populated by a wealth of LGBTQ+ characters. Then there’s queer icon Kim Cattrall, starring as retired supermodel turned legendary makeup mogul, Madolyn Addison. As the series opens, Marco lands his dream job as Madolyn’s second assistant, finally offering him a chance to figure out what he wants out of life, who he actually is, and what it means for him to be queer. Glamorous also stars Zane Phillips, Jade Payton, Michael Hsu Rosen, Ayesha Harris, and Graham Parkhurst, guest stars Joel Kim Booster and Matt Rogers, and features cameos from some Drag Race favourites.
Ahead of the series launch, Miss Benny spoke exclusively with The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann about Glamorous’ expansive queer representation, still being starstruck by Kim Cattrall, performing a number from Chicago the musical in the season’s Provincetown set episode, what Pride means to her this year, and the inspiration behind her new EP Swelter.
James Kleinmann, The Queer Review: you’ve been living with the character of Marco for quite a few years now while the show has been in development, what was the initial draw for you of playing him and what are some of the things that resonated with you about the character?
Miss Benny: “I had been acting for a couple years by the time Glamorous came around and I’d never read a script that felt so authentic to me and so true to who I am. A lot of the time when you’re a queer character on a show you’re playing the comic relief, or maybe you get a punch line here and there. A lot of the time you’re the raunchy Samantha Jones friend in the group and I obviously love that and I’ve enjoyed it so much, but what I loved about Glamorous was that you get to see the full range of this person. You’re getting them at home, you’re getting them with their family, you’re getting them with their friends, at work, and in relationships. I’d never seen that before. l’d also never seen something where the queerness wasn’t ever being opposed by anybody. In our show being queer is as normal as the sun coming out in the morning, it’s truly a superpower and it’s completely normalized and celebrated. I knew when I read the script that the role was perfect for me and I’m so grateful that I get to be a part of this. It’s such a fun, silly, campy show that’s a dream to be a part of.”
Not only is there a queer character at its centre, but the show is populated by queer characters isn’t it?
“I love that. As actors it gave us the ability to breathe and wiggle in our own characters because we didn’t have to take on the responsibility of being the only queer person in the show and being the representative for everybody in the community. It was more a case of, ‘okay, I’m me and you guys are you’, so we all got to take care of ourselves and our community. That was super special for me because I was such a fan of everyone else’s storylines. Getting to see how important it was for everybody else to get to carry that torch for themselves made me feel more validated in getting to carry it for myself.”
“There are storylines in this show that are unique to us as queer people and they’re based in the reality of the queer experience. In real life, I live in such a “homonormative” world that I’m always shocked when I watch TV shows and there’s a gay character who has all straight friends and only straight people around them because I’m the opposite. There are mostly queer people around me with a couple of straight people peppered in. With Glamorous, we give representation to people who exist in that way and I love it. I’m really proud of the fact that we get to show some intersectionality with all the different stories.”
I love Marco’s style, how much input did you have into that and did you have a favourite look?
“I’m really grateful that I was a big part of a lot of the creative process on the show. I’m really close with the show’s creator Jordon Nardino and we worked together to make sure that Marco’s characterization was completely honest to who I am. It was so much fun putting together those looks. The costume designer, Nancy Gould, is such a bright person and she would bring in these amazing ostrich feathers and sequins and so many gorgeous pieces and we would have playtime! I’d do my fittings in between filming and so that was when we got to explore and be creative.”
“I have so many favorite looks in the show. In a tribute to Chicago, we do Cell Block Tango, and that was very fun because they basically gave all of us a rack of stripper clothes and showgirl clothes and said, ‘pick whatever you want!’ It was fun to see what everyone else picked. Marco has one look towards the end of the season where he has these ostrich feathers on his wrist and he’s got this keyhole exposed chest moment and this Marisa Tomei Oscars updo. That was a day when I felt very, very flamboyant. I remember Zane Phillips, who plays Chad, was constantly saying that I was a colorful bird the whole day!”
The Chicago scene when they’re staying in Provincetown is so much fun, I loved seeing Joel Kim Booster in that wig looking stunning. What was that like to shoot?
“It was so much fun. It was a particularly fun episode for a lot of reasons. It felt like such a refresher because we had spent so much time in the office before that and then suddenly to be in this new location made it feel like we were on a vacation. I’ve known Joel and Matt Rogers for a long time and so for them to join the show in such a fun way was amazing. They were hilarious and doing that dance number together was amazing. All my castmates were musical theatre kids growing up, and some of them have been on Broadway. I was the only one who didn’t go to college for musical theatre, so it was this terrifying moment of, ‘oh my gosh, I have to keep up with these people!’ I was like, ‘okay, it’s time to really kick into my two-step gear!’ I’m really proud of that dance number, I can’t wait for people to see it, it’s a good time!”
The series is a lot of fun, but it also explores some interesting things as Marco is still finding himself. He’s allowed to be messy and flawed as a character and we also see him start to change himself, and hide his femme side, when he’s dating Parker the self-described finance bro. What did you make of those aspects of the show?
“I was so proud of that. Because the show doesn’t ever show us any homophobia or transphobia from straight people or prejudice from the outside world, we get to delve into some of the internalized homophobia that queer people face. That’s something that I’ve experienced so much in my life and I haven’t really got to see on screen as much. So it meant a lot to me to explore that through Marco.”
“When we meet Marco he has such a sense of assuredness about his expression and his femininity and the things that he likes and the things that reward him, so it was really fun to see how that was then challenged when he started dating for the first time. When you start dating as a feminine person, specifically as a feminine man or someone assigned male at birth, there’s this pressure to dampen that and you hide it because of this idea of being masc and being boyish. It was really cool to be a part of exploring what it feels like to question that and what it feels like when that confidence is being challenged. I think it’s really important and if I had had something like that in my formative queer years when I first started dating I probably would have been able to expedite the process of self-acceptance. It’s important for the queer community to get to see something like this and have the kinds of conversations they wouldn’t normally have.”
We have to talk about Kim Cattrall who is wonderful in this. What was it like when you first worked with her and then as you got to show us that relationship as it builds across this season?
“It was really mind-blowing. I’m still starstruck by the whole situation. Kim is somebody who is known for being campy and powerful and iconic and so is the character of Madolyn. So her stepping into that role makes complete sense. The great thing about it for me was that Marco is supposed to be in awe of her and be starstruck by her and be intimidated by her and that’s absolutely how I feel about Kim Cattrall. I’m such a big fan of her portrayal of Samantha in Sex in the City, so it was natural for us in our scenes together because she is somebody who is very powerful and intimidating and I am somebody who is completely in awe of everything that she’s done! It was really cool to live in that experience.”
“When I watch the show now, I can’t believe that there are scenes of me and Kim Cattrall talking to each other! I’ve always adored movies like The Devil Wears Prada and shows like Ugly Betty where there is a boss/employee relationship and Glamorous is a fresh take on all of that. I’m really proud of it and excited about it. I think fans of Sex and the City are going to be obsessed with Kim’s portrayal of Madolyn because she is exactly that campy, powerful character we love.”
I’m really enjoying Swelter, the EP that you released earlier this month. For people who haven’t heard it yet, give us a flavour of the vibe and how it compares to previous music that you’ve put out.
“Before Swelter, I had only released music about kissing boys and partying and hooking up. Swelter is what happens after the party, after you’ve had your heart broken, after you’ve kissed too many boys and you’re dealing with the aftermath. It’s the first EP that I’ve put out and I’m really proud of it. It’s six songs about queer heartbreak; the anger and betrayal and pain and sadness you can feel. I produced all six songs over the last two years and Tyler Cunningham shot an amazing music video for the single Break Away.”
“I wanted to give people this project where they can press play and feel this sense of cathartic release from heartbreak. It felt like the first time that I let my audience hear me be vulnerable and get to know a little bit of what’s going on in my personal life. It’s made me want to put out more music and keep that momentum going. The most validating thing is when I see people put the songs on their Instagram stories with comments like, ‘I needed this’ or ‘oh my God, this is exactly how I feel’, because if I went through it that means someone else has gone through it too, so we have a shared experience and now we have a song that talks about it.”
There’s a Pride storyline that runs through Glamorous and of course the series lands on Netflix right in the midst of Pride Month. What does pride mean to you?
“Every year I have a different focus on what Pride means to me. Some years it’s about resilience, sometimes it’s about being outward and outspoken. This year for me it’s about celebration. The news right now makes it very hard and scary being a queer, trans or gender nonconforming person. What I’m really proud of with Glamorous is that it feels like a celebration of queerness and femininity and flamboyance. I truly am in an era of my life where I’m trying to celebrate all of the amazing parts of my identity that I’ve accepted and so Pride to me in 2023 means celebration. I’m really excited that the show feels like it’s doing that because I think that queer people right now could really use a silly laugh and a pat on the back and I think we’re doing that.”
Last question for you, what’s your favorite piece of LGBTQ+ culture, or a person who identifies as LGBTQ+; someone or something that’s had a big impact on you and resonated with you over the years?
“The TV show that’s had the biggest impact on my life—that was a huge reference point for me with Glamorous, even though the tone of the shows is very different—is Veneno. It’s a Spanish series that HBO put out and it is truly one of the best things I’ve ever seen. Queerness aside, it is just an incredible show, but it’s also one of the first times that I ever saw a series that had an almost entirely queer cast. There are so many amazing trans women on that show and I’d never seen something like it before that resonated with me so strongly and felt so authentic to my experience. I highly recommend that show to anybody. It’s really incredible. It’s queer made and it’s such a great story. When we were making Glamorous, me and Jordon were both very vocal about the fact that if we could capture even 1% of the magic that Veneno captures then we’d be good.”
By James Kleinmann
Glamorous premieres globally on Netflix on Thursday, June 22nd.