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The camp electro-house beats of Lady Gaga’s Chromatica lead Stupid Love inaugurating a series titled ‘Glamorous’ in the midst of Pride Month is as limp-wrist as! it! gets! Netflix’s new LGBTQ+ dramedy, led by Kim Cattrall and Miss Benny, is even gayer than the title, premise and promotional materials would have you believe (insert inevitable gif of Benny/Marco’s homage to Nicole Kidman’s seal clap here). With a soundtrack stacked with fierce pop smashers and an ensemble queer cast, as well as the aforementioned Sex and the City icon as the makeup mogul-equivalent of Wilhelmina Slater, Glamorous is the feel-good queer comedy the television landscape is in dire – dire! need of right now.

Created by Jordon Nardino (Desperate Housewives), the 10-episode series sees Cattrall embrace her inner corporate diva as Madolyn Addison, a former “supermodel of the world” with a renowned cosmetics company brimming with queers who decides, on a whim, to hire Marco Mejia (Benny), a 20-something gay with a face-beating fancy as her new assistant. “Marco uses flamboyance, characters and fashion to hide and protect himself,” Benny tells GAY TIMES three weeks ahead of Glamorous’ release and a couple hours before their (this is important) “laser hair removal” appointment (we are scene-setting). “This is a young queer kid that’s lost and trying to figure out how to take the next steps in life. Then, all of a sudden, his queer icon shows up and completely changes his life.” Best known for guest appearances in American Horror Stories, Love, Victor and Fuller House, in addition to their musical career (stream their debut EP Swelter now!), Benny initially signed on as the lead of Glamorous in 2018. At the time, it was a pilot for The CW with Brooke Shields and Pierson Fodé attached to star. A stressful bout of development hell soon followed and the series was shopped around, before Netflix snatched it up with a new cast.

“I was 19 when I first auditioned for the role, and now I’m 24,” they laugh. “So, it feels like I’ve been doing the show for five years!” As a “guarded queer kid” learning his place as a gender non-conforming queer person, Benny can relate to Marco’s arc. So much so, it “frightens” them. “With Marco, people will see that when you’re a feminine queer person who is assigned male-at-birth, you have to navigate the world in a very specific way. I would’ve loved to see that I’m not the only queer person who wears lipstick and is struggling with the fact that not everyone wants me to wear lipstick. So, I really identified with Marco’s struggles with identity.”

As Madolyn’s new assistant, Marco encounters various new-job-related challenges; squeaky-clean glass doors, unwieldy water-coolers and inadvertently abandoning classified intel in an Uber because of the charms of a Muscle Mary. Etc, etc. His main snag, however, is Chad, Madolyn’s himbo son and the Director of Sales for her beauty empire who claims he is – upon checking out Marco’s splashy femme first day attire – “gay, but not… gay“. Played by Fire Island and Legacies alum Zane Phillips, the character is the quasi-villain of Glamorous who frequently flaunts his washboard abs with sweaty, shirtless workouts in his office (we expect an influx of complaints to Netflix about this offensive narrative decision). “Chad fulfils that classic teen movie villain; the quaffed hair and constant sneers,” Zane says (more scene-setting incoming) over a bowl of oatmeal. “Over the course of the season, you get to understand why he is that away. He’s not all sneers.” Desperate for his mother’s approval, Chad will do just about anything to oust Marco from Glamorous. “Chad is the king of the country club and then suddenly this surfboarder comes onto the mountain and he’s changing up the status quo. It’s like, ‘Hey, this is my room, these are my toys, what are you doing here?’”

Despite the ‘villain’ description by both Zane and I, viewers will come to recognise Chad’s status as a – spoiler alert (kinda) – lovable goofball who brings Padam Padam-levels of camp in some of Glamorous’ most uproarious sequences, from his wacky backhand tactics to destroy Marco to an unofficial She-Hulk: Attorney at Law homage (this might make sense later… might). Destined to be a fan-favourite, he’s also at the forefront of a brilliant, Clue-inspired scene. It’s clear that this is Zane, so far, at his most comfortable as an actor. “Being on the Fire Island set, I would just sit there and marvel at the artistry of comedy. These boys doing improv… it’s such an incredible skill that I’m so hungry for,” he explains. “I was like, ‘If I’m going to do this, I’m making sure I’m constantly listening and learning.’ I would be constantly checking in with Lisa Gilroy [who plays recurring character Alyssasay] like, ‘Was that funny? Am I being funny?’ All of the impulses I personally have as a dumb-dumb in real life, I could apply to my character. For this show, I could go ham and test the limits. It was a fun sandbox to play in.”

In Chad’s attempts to sabotage Marco, he attempts to recruit Venetia, Madolyn’s fabulous “first assistant” of three years who is also gagging for her validation (and a well-earned promotion). Dynasty star Jade Payton describes her character, who refuses to bow down to Chad, as “a step ahead” of Marco on their respective queer journeys. “She can impart what she does know so far to Marco and, at the same time, she has ambitions of her own. Venetia is almost a middle-ground between who is new to this world, Marco, and who’s really experienced, Madolyn.” The actress, whose history with the show has also been “a bit long”, was compelled by the script because it “begins in a queer world” (a Marvel film without an origin story, basically): “This is a queer story about queer people as they already exist. It’s closer to my experience in real life, rather than it being a lesson for the world about how queer people operate. It starts with queer normalcy and continues to get gayer!” Alongside Marco, Chad and Venetia are Glamorous’ graphic designers and best friend duo Ben (Michael Hsu Rosen) and Britt (Ayesha Harris).

Ben, a “hapless” and swoon-worthy Dungeons and Dragons stan is secure in who he is and his role at the company, as well as his very prestigious role as Dungeon Master, although he’s the “least Glamorous” character in the office and lacks confidence. (We stand by ‘swoon-worthy’ because you’ll lose your goddamn mind over how adorable he is.) Ben is also – and we’re using Netflix’s official description here because it’s very “aww!” – “built a wall around his heart” (see?). Enter Marco. Michael, who you’ll recognise from Netflix’s Pretty Smart and Tiny Pretty Things, teases of their relationship: “Before he arrived, Ben was in a rut. Marco can’t be anything other than who he is, and in a world like Glamorous, where everyone is a slave to their ambition, it’s refreshing to see someone come in guns-a-blazing. Ben is addicted to that. He’s intoxicated by that.”

While Ben isn’t necessarily as passionate about the mission statement of Glamorous like his co-workers, he’s passionate about people – particularly his confidant Britt. “What I loved about her is her friendship with Ben and how she’s his anchor. I know that in this world you need someone like that on your team to ride with you and hold you down,” says Ayesha, who recently starred in Prime Video’s Daisy Jones and the Six, “so I really enjoy her loyalty to everyone and to herself and the stances that she takes and how she expresses herself.” Echoing the sentiments of Jade, the star was enamoured with Glamorous’s script thanks to the eradication of “heavy and sad” narratives about the queer experience: “A gay life isn’t necessarily a traumatic life. It’s nice to see that we can push past that. Everybody’s gay. Everybody’s queer. We get it. Now, what are our lives about? What are the things that define us as queer people? Like, I don’t go to Wholefoods and say, ‘I’m shopping for gay groceries.’ There’s so much beauty in-between and nuance of gender expression and sexuality and I think we really nailed it on Glamorous.”

An oatmeal-free Zane acknowledges that, for a long (and sadly ongoing) period of time, there’s been a “desire to show queer trauma because that’s what allows [cis-het] people to sympathise” with the community. “‘They had pain, they’re people too!’ But what ends up happening is you end up seeing a small slice of what queer life is. Glamorous is so representative of the silly nature of life that I live in my own community, which is more humanising than anything. It shows queer people being dumb, mean, silly, in love, in lust. Ultimately, I’m not queer because I like dudes. I’m queer because of how I move through the world. I don’t necessarily need to see boys being in love with boys and girls being in love with girls. I want to see how people relate to each other. That’s what I’m interested in seeing more of in queer media.”

By refusing to explore the various plights faced by the LGBTQ+ community, from coming out to abuse slash death and other lovely elements of queer torture that we’ve become accustomed to on-screen, Glamorous is one of the most trailblazing shows in Netflix’s history. Notably, it doesn’t solely focus on the cis white male experience. The white hunks are there, with Chad and Marco’s love interest Parker (Graham Parkhurst), but it’s only a fraction of this story. It’s “hard to overemphasise” how crucial it is for audiences to witness the experiences of all the letters in the LGBTQ+ alphabet, especially on a streaming giant such as Netflix, says Jade. “It’s a show where you’re like, ‘I know that girl right there,’ ‘I see him at the bar every Saturday’ and ‘That is my barista.’ There’s so many different queer stories happening at once, and I’m a fan of Glamorous because of that.” While the phrase “development hell” is often associated with a messy and haphazard final product, it seemingly benefitted Glamorous: it is, undeniably, the gayest and most jubilant show the streamer has ever distributed. (Think Schitt’s Creek’s progressiveness intertwined with the camp appeal of Ugly Betty.)

Ahead of filming, Benny recalls asking creator Jordan Nardino, “‘Are we allowed to make something this gay?'” They continue: “Something really great about the show is that Marco never faces homophobia unless it’s from the queer community’s internal issues. And that was really important to me as an actor because characters are often called slurs, getting bullied or coming out to their parents, and it can become really exhausting when that’s all the representation you see.” Unequivocal queer joy takes priority here, such as Marco recruiting a clique of gay men – including Chad in aforementioned She-Hulk drag (watch episode eight, for it will provide the answers you seek) – for an extremely homosexual Broadway musical number, in addition to Marco slut-dropping with Ben to Christina Aguilera’s flop bop Not Myself Tonight in an electrifying dance sequence that deserves to catapult the song to number-one, Truth Hurts-style (or at least earn the scene a Teen Choice Award nomination).

“What I love about our show is that it’s about love. It’s a show about kindness. It’s a show about being true to yourself and being proud to be who you are, and the joy of being queer and different,” says Michael. “If there is drama or pain, it’s self-internalised. But, Glamorous is so intent on documenting the triumph, like the win in the battle towards pride and queer joy. I’m so proud to be part of that. Every time you see a prestige hit show or movie about queerness, it’s about insurmountable obstacles and fear. Think Brokeback Mountain. It’s a lovely movie, but it’s about how they’ll never be happy. We’ve come a long way.” This joy translated off-screen too, with the cast’s close-knit friendship taking them to escape rooms, a Halloween bash and a Canadian cross-country getaway for Jade’s 30th birthday. They also made an unsung commitment to eat lunch with each other and “kiki” in Benny’s trailer everyday, Jade shares fondly. “I thought, ‘We’re gonna get sick of this. We’re doing this because we’re all excited but, eventually, people will fall off.’ But no.” Working with an all-queer cast felt like “a restoration of community” for Jade, who was thankful that she was able to move in a space where her co-workers were able to understand “a large percentage” of her identity.

Zane’s affection for the cast is evident in his – in Benny’s words – “golden retriever” grin. He describes the dynamic between the five of them, as well as this year’s breakout comedian Lisa Gilroy (watch her Jury Duty episode immediately), as “an egoless room of everyone supporting each other”: “I have never had such a close bond with a cast before. We were all obsessed with each other. I desperately need a season two because I just need to be with my friends.” Inevitably, conversation turns to the incomparable (…And Just Like That star!) Kim Cattrall. “Incomparable is right,” Zane agrees. “There’s something to say about the fact that Kim comes in with such a storied career and status within the queer community. We were all shook to be in the same room as her. So much of what the show became, and what her character became, was because of her.” Hailing the Emmy winner as a “camp icon”, Benny felt like they “won the lottery” every time Kim volleyed with them on set: “I made her cackle and I went home that night kicking my feet and so proud of myself.” 

With a plethora of niche queer references, Pride Month-related shenanigans and cameos from LGBTQ+ icons such as Joel Kim Booster, Matt Rogers, Monét X Change and Priyanka (this! cast! though!), Glamorous is the show LGBTQ+ audiences need and deserve. Again, it bears repeating: no death or trauma to be found here, just queer joy, cosmetics and a lot of drag. “I’m just so proud of this show. I’m really excited for people to see it,” gushes Benny. “I think it’s a really unique and special exhibit of queerness.”

Glamorous is now streaming on Netflix. 

This interview appears in the July 2023 issue of GAY TIMES Magazine, out 23 June.