Single All the Way: LGBTQ Christmas Rom-Com, Starring Come Out Black Actor Philemon Chambers Starring

Chambers on Starring as First Black Actor in LGBTQ Christmas Rom-Com

For the 27-year-old actor, who stars in Netflix’s Single All the Way, making the film gave him the confidence to fully come out and accepting himself even more.”

Philemon Chambers, who’s 27, had been a struggling actor since 13, playing few small roles on TV series like Criminal Minds and All Rise.

But in late 2020, after surviving nasty bout of COVID-19, Chambers stumbled upon opportunity to audition for a new Christmas movie, Single All the Way.

“Two weeks after I got better from COVID, the audition came,” he says. “I remember having this conversation with myself, ‘If I’m going to do it, and if I want this to be my career, then I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.’”

 

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The film follows the familiar conventions of the genre–big-city dweller falls in love in a small town–with one major difference: The central love triangle is among three gay men.

“I sent in my audition tape,” recalls Chambers. “Two days later, Jonathan Clay Harris, the casting director, reached out to me and he was like, ‘Who are you? Where did you come from? I know everybody — and I do not know you.’”

When Single All the Way debuted on Netflix December 2, people wondered about Chambers, who landed lead role in the movie, a fresh face amid Hollywood vets like Michael Urie, Jennifer Coolidge, Barry Bostwick and Kathy Najimy.

“These iconic people I have looked up to for such a long time, I am now getting to work alongside of,” he says.

Chambers plays Nick, best friend to Peter (Urie), children’s author and handyman who accompanies Peter from Los Angeles to hometown of Bridgewater, New Hampshire, for the holidays.

Nick is in love with Peter; but Peter is distracted by local hunk (Luke Macfarlane, who also plays the love interest in Universal upcoming Billy Eichner rom-com Bros).

Urie and Macfarlane were already well-acquainted, having overlapped at Juilliard drama school. “I remember the first day we did our camera testing in Montreal, Luke and Michael were just telling me stories about how they had this one teacher that would explore the difference in vocal tone and how to enunciate. I got so many stories,” says Chambers, who is not classically trained.

Chambers, who is Black and queer, sees the opportunity as much more than just a career leveling-up — it’s a game-changer.

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Chambers (left) and Michael Urie in Single All the Way. PHILIPPE BOSSE/NETFLIX

“Netflix is breaking a lot of barriers with this,” Chambers says of being the first Black actor to star in an LGBTQ Christmas rom-com. “This is exactly the kind of thing I needed to see when I was younger. In Hollywood, a lot of things have been portrayed as very stereotypical, or it’s the coming-out story. Or there’s some negative connotation behind it. And this was so refreshing. My character, Nick, has a successful career and is doing successful things.”

The year of 2020 is significant: It marked the first year that Hallmark and Lifetime brought out Christmas movies with gay lead characters, while Hulu released the lesbian holiday rom-com Happiest Season, starring Kristen Stewart.)

Chambers was born and raised in Compton, California, and still lives there. He was six when he saw The Lion King at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre and realized he wanted to be an actor.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t really know [I was gay,]” he says. “You kind of suppress it. And I did that for years. I tried to act very masculine.”

That secrecy extended into adulthood and his professional life, too.

“I’m new to the industry, but Michael remembered it too, you couldn’t really say who you were openly without judgment. And within the past five years, it’s becoming a thing [to be openly gay]. With Marvel having their first black gay character in Eternals, I mean, that speaks volumes from where we were. And I really cannot wait to see what happens in the next five years, when it will be normalized versus this thing that has to be a thing.”

Chambers credits Single All the Way for giving him the confidence to come out.

“Going through this role with Nick, I became accepting of myself even more,” he says. “When you do learn to fully embrace who you are, a lot of different avenues in your life do open up.”

He continues: “I am still in awe of the power of Netflix to reach this global audience and allow me to be a vessel and a conduit to that. I’m very overwhelmed. It’s so much love and support and accepting of myself that’s come from this. Even from my family and my own family dynamic — the immense amount of support that I have received is monumental.”