Some of us first fell in love with Houston native Michael Urie when he played the lead character in Brian Sloan’s movie adaptation of his play WTC View, about a gay man’s search for a roommate in the wake of 9/11. Many others first laid eyes on him in the popular ABC sitcom Ugly Betty in which he played Marc, the put-upon assistant to fashion magazine creative director Wilhelmina (Vanessa Williams).
More recently, Urie could be seen on Broadway in the Torch Song Trilogy revival, as well as alongside Udo Kier in gay filmmaker Todd Stephens’ acclaimed 2021 movie Swan Song. In December, Urie stars as Peter, the romantic lead in Netflix’s entry in the LGBTQ holiday-movie scene, Single All the Way. Michael was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the movie before its premiere on December 2.
Gregg Shapiro: I’d like to begin by apologizing for asking the most obvious question first, but what was it about Peter that made you want to play him in Single All the Way?
Michael Urie: As soon as I read the script, I was completely charmed and delighted by it. I’m a big fan of Christmas movies, and I actually knew the writer, Chad Hodge, a little bit. I’d seen his TV shows, and we knew each other socially. So I was excited to read it, and then I found it so charming, really funny, and also very romantic. Every time I read it, I would get choked up and laugh out loud. But I think specifically the role of Peter was really enticing to me because his problem was not being gay. It wasn’t about coming out. It wasn’t about any kind of shame or any kind of trauma or any kind of homophobia. His problem was the same kind of problem that straight people have in Christmas movies. And I really liked that, I really appreciated that, because it’s still extremely gay, [laughs] and as somebody who plays a lot of gay characters and is in a lot of gay projects, it was really meaningful to me to be in a project where the joy and the love and the comedy came not out of overcoming anything or hiding from anything, but from other normal ways. His conflicts are not unlike the conflicts of any old straight person.
As far as his family was concerned, their issue with him was that he was single, not that he was gay.
Exactly! He’s not single because he’s gay, he’s single because he’s single. He’s lousy at dating, and that is a completely normal thing for a gay person to be. I was really charmed by the fact that this was going to be the first time Netflix went out with a story like this.
You are playing a romantic leading man. What are the rewards and challenges of such a part, aside from the reward of having Philemon Chambers and Luke Macfarlane as your love interests?
Playing the romantic leading man is great because you have most of the lines [laughs], and you’re the guy with the problem. What’s also great about playing the romantic lead is that when you’re prepping a movie, you can really get a sense of the whole thing. I read the whole script—I wouldn’t just jump around to my scenes, because I was in almost every scene. So, I got a real sense of the arc, and it made shooting it so much easier, actually. I haven’t done that many movies that I’m in all the way through, and if you’re a supporting character you only come in and out. [But in Single All the Way], I was able to really know my lines from reading it so many times all the way through, and studying. We could jump around in the schedule, and I would know where Peter was in the story because I was so familiar with the whole thing. I would know what happened before and what was happening after. It really helped, as an actor, to know where I was.
You mentioned the fact that Netflix is joining the fray of gay-themed holiday movies. What do you think of this trend of streaming networks creating queer holiday movies such as Single All the Way and 2020’s Happiest Season?
I think it’s good and it’s important. I think romance is not isolated to heterosexual relationships, and neither is Christmas. The gays love Christmas, and the gays love Christmas movies. So throwing them some, I think, is going to be really good. Because they’re so popular, I think providing a movie like this, or like Happiest Season, to the cross-section of people who will watch any Christmas movie is only going to broaden people’s ideas and give people a real sense of how we’re all ultimately the same. The movie is not about how we’re different. It’s about the ways in which we are alike. Christmas, romance—we can [agree] on a lot of things, queer people and straight people. I think it’s exciting and inspiring to be part of that.
Finally, Michael, are there any upcoming projects you’d like to mention?
I’m in the movie of Jersey Boys, the musical about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, which played Broadway forever. We put the show up this summer and filmed it for a streaming service. Nick Jonas played Frankie Valli, and he was so good. It was a lot of fun. That’s going to be out sometime, but I don’t know when.
This article appears in the December 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.