One thing most romantic comedies have in common, besides makeover montages and unrealistic real estate, is the archetypal gay best friend. From Rupert Everett in My Best Friend’s Wedding to Damien in Mean Girls, every rom com lead needs a stereotypically gay BFF with no life of their own outside of delivering a pointed “Oh, honey” and providing a shoulder to cry on when the dashing male lead (usually an architect) has disappointed her yet again.
In Isn’t it Romantic, out February 13, Natalie (Rebel Wilson) smacks her head and finds herself stuck inside a romantic comedy and her surly neighbor Donny, played by Brandon Scott Jones, becomes her eye-rolling gay bestie in a character that pokes fun at this archetype. Jones, who is queer IRL (hallelujah), took time out of his busy schedule (he just wrapped a few episodes of NBC’s The Good Place) to chat with Out about queer representation and why we need the escapist fantasy of romantic comedies now more than ever.
Out: What is your favorite romantic comedy?
Brandon Scott Jones: First of all, I would say Clueless. I don't know if that qualifies as a romantic comedy… But then I also would say While You Were Sleeping with Sandra Bullock. Do you know that one?
Yeah, of course. Iconic.
Oh, it is iconic, and I'm also a huge Sandra Bullock fan, so I think pretty much anything she's in I'll always love. But that movie specifically, I watch it every single year, and it's just like my Thanksgiving and Christmas movie. That's the one for me. But yeah, I would say that's 100% my favorite romantic comedy. But I also feel bad because it doesn't take place in New York, you know?
Oh, also, do you consider There’s Something About Mary a romantic comedy?
Definitely, although I would say that's more from a male perspective.
Right, agreed. Agreed. Whereas like definitely the ones that I was bringing up, these are all the ingénue where it's about her and her journey into love with some unknowing guy.
I don't think there's a makeover montage in There's Something About Mary, unless you count her getting jizz in her hair as a makeover.
You know what's so funny though is, I do. I do. I do count that.
Well, you're gay, so that makes sense.
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. After most dates, I'm always like, "Wow, I look different."
Your role in this film is interesting because you are parodying this idea of the gay best friend. Was that something that you responded to immediately in the script?
That's definitely something I responded to right away. So during this like golden age of rom coms, I was still a teenager and I was coming of age, and when you would see on television or in movies, the gay best friend would always fit into that one sort of role. And so it was fun for me, and honestly cathartic for me to be able to play this character and not only try to have fun, but sending up the way [the LGBTQ+ community is] portrayed.
Right, because you got to play both sides of it. You got to play the very stereotypical idea of what a queer person is in this very cishetero type of film, and then also get to play him after the rose-colored glasses come off and reveal who this person really is.
It almost feels like we're bringing that character into the modern world a little bit, and reminding people that queer people like this are all around us, and that the one way they've been portrayed for so long isn't the only way that we have to see them.
And now we're grateful because we're seeing more queer people on screen, and queer characters in Can You Ever Forgive Me, and then [it was announced that Billy Eichner] has a romantic comedy coming out and that's super exciting. So I'm hoping that we get to have fun celebrating and satirizing the way LGBTQ+ characters have been portrayed in the past.
Why do you think as a culture we're so invested in romantic comedies?
There's a great escapism into them, and a lot of times, whether you watch them cynically or very earnestly, they're filled with a sense of hope, and also a sense of reflection. So you can watch a movie like How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days or 13 Going on 30 and be like, “Oh wait, that could happen to me.” Even the more ridiculous they become, you still kind of have that hope inside of you, and I think that they're very light and they're very fun, and they're almost a way of escaping the same way someone might with Lord of the Rings or Batman.
Do you think that with how constantly fucking horrible the world is we this kind of escapism?
That is exactly how I feel. Right now, where every single day you turn on the news and it's just an assault of depression — this is a really wonderful way to escape, and … there's something very hopeful, something very, very joyous, and something very, very comforting about seeing the world with these rose-tinted glasses.
As you mentioned, it was just announced that Billy Eichner is going to be starring in a romantic comedy. Do you think that over the next few years we might start to see more movies like Isn’t it Romantic that star queer people as queer people?
I hope. I hope we get to see more queer people starring as queer people in movies, and just telling a story. There's obviously some sort of reservation to have not done that already in this world, and not to see those stories. But I think what's going to happen is when we take those chances and we ... You'll realize it's not a chance. This is such a universal story. This is another story about love, and it's just starring a queer person and starring a person who maybe isn't that heteronormative storyline.
In Isn’t it Romantic, Rebel Wilson hits her head and she wakes up and finds herself in a romantic comedy. In your romantic comedy, you hit your head, how does the world change?
Well, first of all, I always thought that would be funny if the character of Donny would have hit his head and wake up in some sort of political thriller. He definitely would be like, “Uh, what's going on?”
Or, I would be able to eat anything I want and not gain like 20,000 pounds in an instant. That's what I would ... You know what? Actually, I would probably have the exact same world that [Rebel Wilson] wakes up in.
Okay. Love that for you.
Yeah, thank you. Thank you.
Isn’t it Romantic is in theaters everywhere February 13.