“It feels like I’m part of progress, and it feels good,” says Jonathan Bennett. “I can only imagine what younger me would have thought when he saw representation like this in a movie.”
Well-known for his role as high school crush Aaron Samuels in 2004’s Mean Girls, as well as his gregarious Food Network bake-off hosting gigs, the 39-year-old LGBTQ actor is currently starring as half of a gay couple in Hallmark Channel’s The Christmas House. It’s one of two holiday movies from preeminent family-centric cable networks — the other being Lifetime — elevating gay characters in a prominent way.
“This is what a modern family in 2020 looks like,” says Bennett, whose character returns to his childhood home, husband in tow, to set up a showstopping Christmas display. The couple is treated as a part of the family, with warmth, love, and respect, from the outset. There is no hand-wringing coming out moment. Instead, the men have another secret they’re waiting to spring on the folks. “The Hallmark Channel…took extra special care crafting the perfect storyline for an LGBT couple in a holiday movie,” says Bennett.
At one point, The Christmas House features a passionate kiss between the men. “We were working with a crew that does dozens of Hallmark movies a year,” recalls Bennett. “And when we were done with that scene, some of the crew who were gay came up to us with tears in their eyes, just bawling. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. And they said, ‘Thank you. We’ve worked on dozens of these movies, and for the first time we feel represented. We feel seen, like we’re part of the family.'”
When initially announced, the film drew expected ire from bigoted conservative groups decrying Hallmark’s move to include LGBTQ characters in a holiday offering. To that, Bennett has an extremely pointed response.
“To quote Theodore Roosevelt, ‘It’s not the critic who counts.’ Who matters are the millions who are going to watch this movie and feel like they’re represented. Who matters are the people who are allies and best friends of the LGBTQ community who have friends and sons and brothers and neighbors who are gay and queer and everything in between, who will watch this movie and feel like they see their friends and people they love represented in a movie. Who matters are the young people that are going to watch this and are going to feel less scared and more seen this Christmas. That’s who matters.”
The Christmas House is streaming exclusively through December on The Hallmark Channel. Visit www.hallmarkchannel.com.
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