COVID-19 has canceled a lot of Pride events, but Jonathan Bennett isn’t letting the pandemic rain on his parade. The ‘Mean Girls’ star tells HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY how he’s still celebrating, why Todrick Hall is a ‘game-changer,’ and more.
“Honey! We are in the middle of a pandemic! Where the fu*k do I have to be? Actually, yes, I did just get back from shooting the first official SAG film,” Jonathan Bennett says when speaking EXCLUSIVELY with HollywoodLife. Jonathan — best known for his roles in the film Mean Girls, and on shows like Veronica Mars, All My Children, Cupcake Wars and Halloween Wars — will be seen next in the film Harvest of the Heart. “I play Gabe Nellis, who owns Nellis vineyards,” he tells us. “They were amazing! It’s the vineyard we shot at. They were amazing lesbians that own this vineyard, and I’m obsessed with them.”
The movie – a romance starring Jonathan and Alix Angelis – was the first, if not the first live-action productions to begin filming in America since the COVID-19 pandemic halted all film or television production. “It was a really interesting experience,” Jonathan told HollywoodLife. “Yes, I was nervous at first. Talking to the director, Danny Roth, the COVID specialist on set and the casting director, Ricki Maslar, on what the protocols were going to be really put my mind at ease. Everyone wore masks. Everyone had to get tested right before filming. You had to practice social distancing onset and offset when possible.”
“Once you got into the groove of it, you were OK. Hair and make-up wore masks and gloves and used the utmost precautions. Everything was so safe! I read [in some] places [that] they’re going to give [actors] touch-up kit,” adds Jonathan. “I don’t know any actors that would do that themselves. I don’t know how to do that! I’d end up looking like a drag-queen if they made me do my own make-up [laughs].”
Speaking of drag queens, the filming of Harvest of the Heart coincided with both the COVID-19 pandemic, nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, and Pride month. Though this year’s Pride is “different …than normal for everyone,” Jonathan tells HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY how he’s still celebrating, why Todrick Hall is his “role model,” and the uplifting advice to the LGBTQIA+ youth.
HollywoodLife: How are you celebrating Pride this month?
Jonathan: Wait, I’m gay? [laughs] It’s a different Pride than normal for everyone. Pride month is interesting, but for me, and what I love about this Pride month more than any other is it is a different experience. There seems to be a lot of education happening this Pride month! I love that we have come so far as an LGBTQ+ community, but it is so important to remember where we have come from. We can’t forget about the past and the uphill road to get to where we are today. We still have a long way to go. There is a younger generation that doesn’t understand what Stonewall was. They’ve heard the name, but they don’t really know.
What I’ve seen this Pride month and what I try to do, which I love, is that Pride is also connected to the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s all integrated, and there is some education happening on both sides of the movements. I think it is a great opportunity for people to educate themselves. A lot of people are stepping back and educating themselves on the Black Lives Matter movement, I know I am and everything that is going on with the movement, the history, and what we need to do to help. I think people are doing that with Pride this month. They’re taking a step back and remembering where we have come from and really understanding what people went through in the LGBTQ + community to get to where we are today and using that to where we need to go. You get what I’m trying to say, just make it sound better! [laughs]
The best thing I think comes out of a Pride month [happening] during quarantine is everyone has to stay inside, and they have their computers and phones in front of them. They can use what may have normally been a day to go out and party, they can use that time to educate themselves on what is going on. So, when everything does go back to “normal,” they are able to have a better understanding of what it is exactly that they’re fighting for. The younger generation needs to understand how much their LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters before them fought, so they can have what they have today. Because someday they’re going to have to pick up the baton themselves and fight the good fight.
How do you typically celebrate Pride?
James, my boyfriend, would say that I don’t need to go to a Pride parade because everywhere I go is a Pride parade. Normally I try to work with some type of organization to raise money for the month of June for an LGBTQ+ charity that needs it. This year I’m happy again to team up with Tipsy Elves for our Mean Girls inspired tank tops. A donation from each tank top will go to The Trevor Project.
What does Pride mean to you?
Accepting yourself, loving yourself, and being proud of exactly who you are!
Who is your ultimate LGBTQ icon?
You know who I think has done more for visibility and just really changed the game in what it is to live loudly and proudly and just be yourself, is Todrick Hall. I think he has done a tremendous job over the past few years of really changing the game for what it means to be an LGBTQ+ role model. He inspires so many kids and the younger generation to really embrace who they are and love themselves. I think he does a really good job of it!
He is one of the good ones, right?! He is just good! He changed the game. He dresses the way that he wants. He dresses in crazy costumes, and then he will wear a t-shirt and jeans with bright pink pearls. He is just so bright, fun, and so full of life that he is so contagious that it is infectious. You can’t help but smile and be proud to be a member of the community when you watch his content. Have you been to his concerts? He puts all of the artists, most of them are LGBTQ+, that he thinks are really good right now, whether it be singers or rappers whoever it is.
He puts all of them and their handles on Instagram on the big screens at his concerts. He tells everyone to go follow them because they need followers because they are so good! Who does that?! He is very empowering, which I think is fantastic. The other saying, which I try to live my life by is, I don’t shine if you don’t shine. It doesn’t matter how good I’m doing because if you aren’t doing well, we all aren’t doing well. That’s a perfect example of Todrick Hall!
What advice do you have for LGBTQ celebrating their first Pride this year?
To all the people that are out and celebrating their first Pride this year, I want to say, welcome! Your packet is in the mail! [laughs] We have been waiting for you, and we are glad you’re here. Also, remember that you are never too much, and you are always enough!
To the people reading this, “you are never too much, and you are always enough,” is my favorite saying. It took me forever to come out. It took me a while to get comfortable, and the one rule that I heard that really changed my perspective and gave me the courage and the strength to live my life completely out loud and proud was, “you are never too much, and always enough.” When I broke that down, it really resonated with me. I broke it down and looked up what the word “never” meant. It means, at no time past or future, on no occasion, not ever. That is a powerful word, never. You are NEVER too much! Whoever you are, in that moment, you are completely fine. “Always” at all times and on all occasions, you are ALWAYS enough. Meaning, no matter what you are doing, no matter how you want to live your life. No matter who you want to love, everything about you, in that moment, is enough. To deserve love and to be able to give love. That is a really powerful saying. I end a lot of speaking engagements I do with that because it is so powerful.
The final thing I would say is — it took me a while to get to where I am until I learned, “I’m never too much and always enough.” I encourage the LGBTQ+ community to live loudly and proudly because you never know when you’re going to be the role model, the inspiration, or the reason for someone to have the courage to come out and live proudly themselves.
Interview conducted by Meagan Sargent. This interview was edited for clarity.