Michael Urie, Philemon Chambers on Normalizing Queer Christmas Movies

Philemon Chambers and Michael Urie
Philemon Chambers and Michael Urie

In recent years there’s been an overdue proliferation of holiday rom-coms featuring queer lead characters, from Clea DuVall’s Happiest Season to Lifetime's The Christmas Setup and Hallmark’s The Christmas House. But Netflix’s Single All the Way may take the queer kringle cake considering its deeply queer pedigree. It stars out actors Michael Urie and Philemon Chambers and includes out actor Luke MacFarlane and past and future camp icons Jennifer Coolidge, Kathy Najimy, Barry Bostwick (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), and Jennifer Robertson (Schitt’s Creek). But the film is more than the quotable over-the-top bons mots Coolidge’s Aunt Sandy issues, like “All the world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.” Single All the Way offers representation to queer folks who never saw themselves in holiday love stories growing up (in any love stories, for that matter). That’s something Urie and Chambers say has the power to make a difference.

“I'm super grateful to be a part of [Single All the Way]. [During] filming, of course, I was focused on just trying to keep up with Michael,” Chambers tells The Advocate. “Once I was able to get home and actually take a moment to myself and really realize what just happened and what I actually did ... when I was a kid, especially growing up as a black queer man, queer boy… I grew up very religious, it was just not in my deck of cards. Growing up, I would see representations of queer Black men on TV, but they either were very stereotypical or there was something wrong with them.”

“It's monumental because I didn't live in my truth until I hit my 20s. I'm 27 now, and I really did not accept myself until I was 25,” he adds. “If I had things like this growing up, I really think that that would have been a whole different circumstance.”

Single All the Way
Single All the Way

Michael Urie as Peter and Jennifer Coolidge as Aunt Sandy

Single All the Way tells the story of Urie’s perennially single character Peter, who heads home for the holidays to New Hampshire with his best friend and roommate, Nick. The twist is that Peter plans to pretend that he and Nick are boyfriends to avoid scrutiny from his family, who want to see him happily partnered. Meanwhile, his mom, Carole (Najimy), has set Peter up on a blind date with the hunky local spin/ski instructor James, played by Macfarlane (Brothers & Sisters). Their small New England town, much like the fictional town of Schitt’s Creek, is free from homophobia. The only real obstacle for true love is whether Peter and Nick will be willing to take the next step and go beyond their abiding friendship to something more intimate.

While Chambers recently came into his authentic self, Urie is an industry veteran who’s been out and playing queer roles in vehicles including Ugly Betty and Younger on TV, the recent film Swan Song, and the one-man show Buyer & Cellar on the stage. Still, Urie is moved by Single All the Way’s story from out writer Chad Hodges and out director Michael Mayer.

“I'm extremely proud that we're telling a gay story that is not about coming out, that's not about shame, that doesn't have homophobia or trauma. It is a movie that you know will have a happy ending. And it plays into holiday movie tropes that we know and love,” Urie says.

“It’s a movie not about how we are different but how we are the same. In my career, I've had lots of opportunities to play gay characters. And I've definitely played gay characters that we're not dealing with all of those things,” he adds. “So much of the mainstream is telling the stories of how we're different and how being gay can cause problems in one's life. This movie is not without conflict, but the conflicts have nothing to do with him being gay.”

Single All the Way dropped on Netflix earlier this month, which is another boon for queer visibility Urie contends. “You don't get much more mainstream than Netflix,” he says. The streamer released the holiday romance ensemble Let it Snow in 2019, which featured a queer love story. But this film is the first queer-led holiday rom-com for the massive platform.

Michael Urie and Philemon Chambers's full interview with The Advocate

Already, Coolidge’s Aunt Sandy is the subject of many a gay meme. In the film, she filches star-shaped Christmas ornaments from her sister’s tree to wear as earrings, produces a Christmas pageant she titles Jesus H. Christ in which she dresses like Glinda the Good Witch, and she self-reflexively spouts instant camp classics like “The gays just know how to do stuff. They’re survivors. And for some reason, they’re always obsessed with me.” While Single All The Way is packed with wit and some real belly laughs, it’s also full of heart. A scene where Peter’s dad, played by Bostwick, pulls Nick aside to share that he thinks the two friends should be together is a sweet tearjerker.

Single All the Way is a smart queer love story set against the backdrop of snowscapes, peppermint lattes, and Instagays dressed as shirtless Santas, placing queer holiday iconography on par with historical markers of the holidays. But for all of the barriers the movie breaks, Urie hopes it’s just the beginning of a march toward more marginalized folks feeling seen until it all just becomes the norm.

“As groundbreaking as our movie is, it really only scratches the surface of the LGBTQ community. It is about gay men, it isn't about any of the other letters,” Urie says. “While this is a major step, we got a lot more steps and a lot more siblings in our community to account for.”

“I hope that it's the that it's just the beginning and that eventually gay Christmas movies will just be called Christmas movies,” he adds.

Chambers, who says he was honored to work with the crackerjack cast, especially his on-screen love interest Urie, hopes the movie clears a path for more stories about Black queer folks to follow.

“I do not take it lightly. I am very proud and happy to be a part of Netflix's gay holiday rom-com that breaks barriers and stereotypes. I am so looking forward to the many more Black queer stories that will be told from this,” he says.