Isn’t It Romantic is Hollywood’s latest attempt at igniting a romantic comedy renaissance. This one, however, takes a more satirical look at rom com tropes — including skewering the Gay Best Friend, or GBF.
Brandon Scott Jones, an openly out actor, plays the GBF in the film, Donny.
All at once, Jones is a genuinely hilarious exaggeration of a stereotypical gay men, and then in the next scene challenging ideas of heternormativity and bringing real humanity to the film.
He gives a truly memorable performance. GSN sat down to talk with him about this role, the fantasy of rom coms, and seeing broader representation in Hollywood.
Playing in the rom com world
‘I am very much Natalie in the movie,’ Jones says with a laugh.
Natalie is Rebel Wilson’s character in the film, who hates rom coms. That is, until she finds herself living in one after a knock on the head. In this new fantasy rom com world, she suddenly has Jones as a gay best friend, who she acknowledges is ‘setting gay rights back like 100 years’.
Jones understands the escapism of romantic comedies, but says there’s still that ‘lingering thought, “Oh, is this ever going to happen for me?” Because I am a very single man right now.’
Getting to act in one, though, was ‘cathartic’ for him.
‘I got to take everything I ingested seeing on screen growing up and play with it,’ he says of the character, who is only a stereotype in the fantasy world.
Jones’ character is involved in one of the more emotional scenes of the movie and he delivers a heartfelt performance, which he says came from ‘an earnest place’.
Time to see new representation
Despite not being on board with rom coms 100%, he said he would star in one with a gay love story at the center ‘in a heartbeat’. He’s maybe even written a few.
‘I like the idea of a rom com with queer voices and queer experiences,’ he goes on to say. ‘We’ve had so much of the rom com that is cisgendered and heteronormative – and as good as those movies are, it’s exciting to wonder, “Why do I feel like I’ve seen this before?” Maybe it’s because you have.’
Representation, however, is changing, and new stories are being told. Jones is thrilled about this.
He tells GSN of these projects: ‘The concept that you can tell queer-centric stories – with queer characters in things like political thrillers or rom coms – where their queerness isn’t necessarily central to the plot is exciting. It keeps things fresh and fun.’
Take Jack on Will & Grace…
Jones brings up Jack from Will & Grace as an example of a character based on a stereotype, a common go-to.
‘He was such a popular character, and still is. For a while it was like, “Okay, people love this character,”‘ Jones recalls. ‘And that was exciting for me because I saw that people can respond to a queer character, and respond positively.’
Then came the problem.
‘When you start to see only that character, then it becomes different, because you start to think, “Wait a minute, I’m not like that.” Or even if you are, you know people who aren’t. The queer experience is multi-layered,’ Jones says.
‘I started to think, “I wish we could see a movie about gay men that’s not about AIDS or some bleak fear of being found out.” Those stories are very important and compelling, and need to be told, but there are so many other stories too.’
Who can you see yourself in?
When I ask Jones about queer actors or characters he related to growing up, he takes time to answer.
‘Growing up, I was in the closet for a while, so I sort of resented identifying with gay characters for a while,’ he finally says.
‘I put a lot of my identification into women, like Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame. That’s where my energy went to.
‘I also remember really liking Rupert Everett in My Best Friend’s Wedding. And I didn’t even know he was gay until the end of the movie! Isn’t that crazy?’
No matter who it was, though, Jones says he was ‘always drawn to characters who marched to the beat of their own drum because I was looking for that difference I could identify with’.
As a parting gift, he leaves me with his impression of Liam Hemsworth, who also appears in Isn’t It Romantic: ‘He’s like this big, tall Australian god of a man, but he’s also this really sweet, fun, kind guy. He has that Australian accent and you’re just like, “Oh my god, I think you’re the gem of the earth?”‘
Isn’t It Romantic is out now in the US.