In a movie musical jam-packed with fun and inclusive messages, Kerry Washington had to get serious for Netflix's The Prom. The Scandal actress plays the head of a high school PTA in small-town Indiana, who rules to cancel the prom after Jo Ellen Pellman’s Emma asks if she can take her girlfriend to the annual dance. Washington’s conservative character is key to the Broadway adaptation, but was a unique undertaking for her to take on.
When CinemaBlend spoke to Kerry Washington and Ariana DeBose of Hamilton and Steven Spielberg’s upcoming West Side Story remake, I asked her how stepping into the role may have altered her own perspective. Here’s what Washington said in response:
The Prom’s Mrs. Greene is much different than Kerry Washington and has some opposing values to her own. But in order for the actress to play her best, she told us she felt like she needed to come at the character from a place of compassion and non-judgement. It’s interesting to hear how ideologies may change how an actor might approach a role, and while Washington was not prescribing to the beliefs of the PTA head, she found a way to appreciate and accept her.
Kerry Washington’s message about her character speaks to The Prom’s message about meeting different beliefs halfway in order to make room for acceptance from the left and the right. In Ryan Murphy’s musical, adapted from the Broadway musical of the same name, a group of failed Broadway actors venture to the Indiana town to protest on behalf of Emma after reading about it online, with every intention for their “activism” to boost their reputations. Although they are coming from a place of love, they are also facing blindspots related to their privilege and selfishness.
Throughout the antics of The Prom, which also stars Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Keegan-Michael Key, Andrew Rannells and Tracey Ullman, the characters each get their own lessons in empathy and understanding over judgement. So Kerry Washington’s own experience playing a conservative mother unaccepting of LGBTQ+ relationships is fitting.
The Prom has debuted on Netflix to positive reviews from critics and audiences, but if you’re not a musical theater fan, the movie may not be your jam. Check out what other big movies are hitting Netflix before the end of the year with CinemaBlend’s list of the Netflix originals lineup.
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