The year’s most coveted status symbol is a GBF – a gay best friend. Director Darren Stein’s new movie, G.B.F., is a hilarious and thoughtful sendup of high school and the cultural crutch of categorizing people. The film is a quotable goldmine thanks to a steady supply of one-liners. It makes the casting of Megan Mullally, of Will & Grace fame, all the more perfect.
“I have a thing for labels – Chanel, Versace and gay,” explains the quintessential, high-school queen bee.
Unlike depictions 20 years ago, the gay teens of G.B.F. aren’t violently chased into locker rooms. They are pursued by hard-core, politically-correct confidants who want their “very own homosexual.” Mullally plays the well-intentioned – albeit comically misguided – mother of a gay teen. Her efforts to bond include watching Broke Mountain with her son and narrating the sex scenes.
Mullally played the iconic Karen Walker on Will & Grace, which practically created the pop-culture concept of GBF. She won multiple Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Awards for hitting every comedic bullseye, shooting high-pitched wisecracks like a booze-fueled Katniss. Over 15 years since the show’s debut, Mullally is again using laughter for light-handed commentary. The two gay boys of G.B.F. grapple with whether acceptance means a stereotype of being fit, fashion forward and fabulous.
In a two-part phone interview with The Seattle Lesbian, Mullally discussed G.B.F., the legacy of Karen Walker and advice on good Valentine’s Day gifts for a GBF.
How did you become involved with G.B.F.? Were you immediately on board after reading the script?
I didn’t know anyone involved in the film before I did it and only worked on it for a couple of days. I thought the script was really solid and cute and funny. On set, a lot of the dialogue ended up being improvised. The entire scene where I narrate the sex scene in Brokeback Mountain was improvised and really fun. I wasn’t familiar with Darren Stein’s [G.B.F. director] work and didn’t know how stylized the look of the final film would be. It was cool to see the entire movie for the first time and see how he orchestrated it.
Your character is hilarious in that she so badly wants to be supportive that she becomes endearingly annoying. Is that a sign of progress? A gay teenager has an embarrassing parent like any other teen rather than one that disowns them?
Yeah, I think it’s nice. I liked the character. It’s nice to see somebody who’s so completely cool with her son being gay that she’s proving to be incredibly, and unfortunately, annoying. She’s so bound and determined to have no problem with it. That’s so much better than the opposite. Someone asked me if I would ever take the role of a parent who was very anti-gay. It doesn’t sound appealing, but maybe – if it was a great, interesting, cool script that could end up being an instructive, cautionary tale. I really enjoyed this role, though, where she’s just trying too hard to make him feel comfortable.
This movie uses the idea of high-school cliques for some great laughs. What would you pick as your clique?
The one I think would be the most fun would be the Diva. That’s the girl he goes to prom with [in the movie]. I’m not anything like that character, it’s not my thing, but it’d probably be the most fun. Although, it turns out she is kind of secretly smart and well-rounded, so that’s good.
In the movie, one of the gay teens expresses wanting to be a friend rather than a “gay friend.” What’s your takeaway about the issue of labeling?
Well, gosh, I’m not sure. There were so many years when there weren’t any gay characters anywhere in film or television. It was few and far between. Now it seems like there are gay characters on every show. I think we have to find our way with that issue. One thing I liked about Will & Grace was that Will was a guy who was a lawyer, a friend and many other things. Being gay was just one quality of his. Of course, Jack’s character [Will’s best friend] was a lot campier. I think it depends on the piece, the subject matter and the situation.
When do you most value having a GBF?
I’d say just for regular talking about what’s going on in your life and when things might be bothering you, hashing out life issues. Getting advice is big.
When there is a story about GBFs, there is often an accompanying picture of you and the Will & Grace cast. What does it mean to you to be part of the GBF pop-culture history?
It’s kind of crazy. It’s taken awhile for it to really sink in. Joe Biden referenced Will & Grace in his speech about gay marriage! Of course, some Republican also recently talked about how evil gay marriage is and referenced Will & Grace as being a culprit. So, it goes both ways. It’s crazy, though! Now there is a regular, gay character on pretty much every TV show. When Will & Grace started, the last time – and I think also the first – was Billy Crystal on Soap [playing a gay character on the television series from 1977-1981].
I think Ellen [DeGeneres] really took the hit for us by doing what she did. She was very brave – a blond, cute girl and lead character on a popular sitcom came out as gay [as did her Ellen TV character in 1997]. I think the reason it didn’t work longterm was that it was hard after that to return to “and now for crazy escapades at the bowling alley!” It became politicized and the show had to keep dealing with the topic. I don’t think Middle America was ready. They weren’t interested in that for their 22 minutes of entertainment. When Will & Grace came along, the issue of Will and Jack being gay was never politicized. It was simply an aspect of their lives.
Will & Grace was groundbreaking when it debuted in 1998. Do you feel a difference in being part of a gay-centered project now versus then?
I don’t think of it [G.B.F.] as a movie about gay culture in particular. It’s entertainment that happens to be in that milieu. Entertainment isn’t meant to be super instructive. Although, it’s nice to have something instructive. The parents are all very accepting of their children’s sexuality in this film.
Do you have any special plans for Valentine’s Day? Any advice on a great gift for a GBF?
I think my husband and I are actually going to be together doing a concert in Austin, so that’ll be fun. We don’t necessarily do gifts on the actual day. We sort of do presents all year round. That way, it doesn’t put pressure on a single day. I’d say a good gift for a GFB is your diary. You can really cut to the chase that way!
What future projects of yours can readers look forward to?
I have this band, Nancy and Beth, playing all over the country and my husband and I are again doing a two-person play we did last spring, Annapurna. I’m also doing a special benefit of Guys and Dolls at Carnegie Hall [April 3] with Nathan Lane and directed by Jack O’Brien. There should be at least a couple of gay people in that audience!
G.B.F. opens nationally in theaters January 24. It is also available OnDemand by certain providers.