From Hallmark to Hulu, LGBTQ films are finally getting a seat at the proverbial holiday table in 2020.
Last month, Hallmark made history with “The Christmas House,” its first holiday movie with a gay lead couple. Lifetime also broke boundaries by casting real-life husbands Ben Lewis and Blake Lee to lead its first LGBTQ holiday feature, “The Christmas Setup.” And Hulu debuted its own lesbian Christmas rom-com starring Kristen Stewart, “Happiest Season.”
Amid the uptick in queer holiday films this year, Netflix’s “A New York Christmas Wedding” stands out as the only one to feature an ethnically diverse leading cast.
In the romantic comedy, Jennifer Ortiz (Nia Fairweather) is visited by an angel (Cooper Koch) before her Christmas Eve wedding to David Wilks (Otoja Abit) to show her what her life could have been like had she followed her true feelings for her childhood friend Gabrielle Vernaci (Adriana DeMeo).
“We have been seeing these Christmas stories for decades,” said Abit, who in addition to being one of the film’s lead characters is also its director and writer. He said the team behind the film “wanted to do something we hadn’t seen before.”
They wanted to produce a movie that would break away from the formulaic approach to the traditional holiday genre and “create something to add to the conversation.”
“I was curious about two women exploring the ideas of marriage and the various cultural nuances that could come with their lives,” Abit added.
Another theme the film addresses is religion. “Sex and the City” star Chris Noth plays Father Kelly, a Roman Catholic priest who is struggling with whether to preside over a same-sex wedding.
Gay couples are not permitted to wed in the Catholic church, though this year a documentary about Pope Francis featured him calling for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples.
Lead actress Nia Fairweather said the film “speaks to queerness, ethnicity and culture.”
“I’m honored to be part of a movie that shows what humanity really looks like today,” she said of the cast’s diversity of voices and talent.
Fairweather said she’s particularly proud of the movie’s positive portrayal of a same-sex biracial couple and of Latino culture.
“First of all, it’s not tragic. We get to see her be happy,” Fairweather said of her character. “And we get to see a Latino father support, love and celebrate his daughter’s love. As families gather during the holidays, I can’t imagine what it means for young kids to see that acceptance on their screens, for parents to see the love they have for their child reflected back, and for the parent who may be struggling with learning to love and accept their child to feel inspired. It’s an important family movie for everyone to see.”
Those behind the film also hope it serves to honor the memory of openly gay actor Chris Trousdale, who played a wedding singer in the film and is best known as a member of the former boy band Dream Street. Eleven months after filming wrapped, Trousdale died in June, at 34, after contracting Covid-19.
“He brought a light and energy and real music to the set while filming during the hot New York summer,” Fairweather said. “His joy and talent made it really feel like the holidays.”
“A New York Christmas Wedding” is now streaming on Netflix.
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