It’s a world where it’s still too common for straight actors to play gay characters, it was nice to know that Jo Ellen Pellman is gay like her The Prom character, Emma Nolan.
The Prom, based on the 2018 Broadway musical of the same title, stars Pellman as an out gay teenager whose prom is cancelled because she wants to take her secret girlfriend, Alyssa Greene, as her date. As the story makes the news, in come Broadway stars Dee-Dee Allen and Barry Glickman, who use the situation as publicity to repair their tired careers. Along the way, Dee-Dee and Barry learn what it means to be truly selfless, and in the end, Emma, who is estranged from her family and was harassed by other students, has the prom of her dreams.
That’s the movie in a nutshell, but how similar is Pellman to Emma? Well, quite different. In an interview with The New York Times, Pellman revealed that she came out to her mother in her senior year of high school, and it didn’t change their relationship at all. “When I came out my senior year of high school, it was no big deal,” she said. “I just blurted out one night while watching TV, “Mom, I think I’m queer.” And she was like, ‘That’s completely fine.’ She just wanted me to be happy.” As viewers of The Prom know, Pellman’s experience is very different from Emma, whose storyline centered on how she was ostracized by her family, especially her mom, because of her sexuality.
Also unlike Emma, who was bullied by many students at her high school, Pellman’s sexuality was a non-issue on her campus. She even called her high school “pretty progressive” and revealed that several of her close friends are gay. “I’m lucky because I was never bullied,” she said.
She continued, “It’s the best feeling in the world, knowing I can bring my authentic self to the role. And not just be accepted, but celebrated.”
Though her coming out experience wasn’t the same as Emma’s, Pellman understands how the The Prom can help someone who may be struggling with their sexuality. “I hope they’re like, ‘I’m worthy of a happy ending,’” she said.
The Prom is available to stream on Netflix.