“I feel like I’m part of the progress, and it feels good,” says Jonathan Bennett. “I can only imagine what I would have thought younger when he saw a performance like this in a movie.”
Well known for his role as Aaron Samuels in high school in the 2004s Bad girls, along with his gregarious Food Network hosting gigs, the 39-year-old LGBTQ actor currently stars as half a gay couple on Hallmark Channel. Christmas house. It’s one of two major family-centric cable TV vacation movies – the other being Lifetime – elevating gay characters in a big way.
“This is what a modern family looks like in 2020,” says Bennett, whose character returns to his childhood home, her husband in tow, to put on a stunning Christmas spectacle. The couple are treated like family, with warmth, love and respect from the start. There is no hand spin moment. Instead, men have another secret that they expect to jump on people. “The Hallmark Channel… took special care in creating the perfect script for an LGBT couple in a vacation movie,” Bennett says.
At one point, Xmas House presents a passionate kiss between the men. “We worked with a team that makes dozens of Hallmark films a year,” Bennett recalls. “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 screaming. There was not a dry eye in the house. And they said, ‘Thank you. We have worked on dozens of these films, and for the first time we feel represented. We feel seen, as if we are part of the family.
Upon its initial announcement, the film sparked expected wrath from fanatic conservative groups denouncing Hallmark’s decision to include LGBTQ characters in a vacation deal. To this Bennett has an extremely pointed answer.
“To quote Theodore Roosevelt, ‘It’s not the critic that matters.’ What matters are the millions of people who will watch this film and feel represented. What matters is 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 else, who will watch this movie and have the feeling like seeing their friends and the people they love portrayed in a movie. What matters are the young people who are going to watch this and who are going to feel less scared and seen more this Christmas. That is what matters.
Christmas house airs exclusively through December on The Hallmark Channel. Visit www.hallmarkchannel.com.
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