The Prom’s Ryan Murphy was told ‘he couldn’t have a single gay character’ when he started out in TV
Ryan Murphy has said he was told not to include any LGBT+ characters in TV shows at the start of his career.
The prolific creator is known for putting inclusion at the front and centre of his work, creating of many of TV’s most diverse shows, from Pose and The Politician to Ratched and American Horror Story.
But it wasn’t always that way, Murphy revealed in a Q&A as he spoke about new lesbian Netflix musical The Prom.
Murphy, who has a lucrative deal to create new shows exclusively for Netflix, reflected: “I grew up in a system where if you had gay characters, let alone two of them, let alone that was sort of the thrust of the story, you would be given five cents and a couple peanuts, and be told: ‘Good luck!’
“To have an experience where you are so supported by a company, and treated like a Marvel picture – I never heard no, anything that we wanted we got – was really moving to me.
“It felt like a very full circle moment for me because I started off in 1998 writing for television, and the first thing I did, I was told I could not even have a single gay character. So I had a couple of moments making this, [thinking about] how much the world has changed.”
The Prom, a musical comedy adapted from a hit Broadway show, sees a group of out-of-work performers flock to a small Indiana town, where a teenage girl has made the news after being denied permission to bring a female date to prom.
Murphy said of the project: “I think the reason that it spoke to me is when I was young, I wished I had a film like this to see. I wished that I did not feel so alone in my life.
“When I first saw the musical, I really deeply related to it. Like Jo Ellen Pellman’s character, Emma, I’m also from Indiana, and it was very similar feeling… I was searching for a community, I was searching for a place to belong.”
He continued: “I just loved that the musical was actually about something, it was about the fight to be seen and to be included in the conversation.
“I deeply related to that, and I thought it would be a wonderful film to make for Netflix, because 200 million people all over the world can see this film and see this message, including countries where it’s against the law to be gay, or you can actually be killed for being gay. So I just I just overall love the message of joy and tolerance that it was about.”
In an Instagram post, he elaborated: “Like Emma, I couldn’t bring a date to my proms. So every year, I went with one of my cool girlfriends. They were wonderful and we had fun.
“But every prom I attended, ended in afterparty private tears and a feeling like I truly wasn’t wanted and didn’t belong in this world. All I wanted was to be embraced for who I was, and to love whomever I wanted. The Prom has this idea as its beating heart and that’s why I wanted to make it.”
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Netflix built a full-scale replica of Broadway for The Prom
Murphy also revealed that Netflix’s budget was stretched to its limits to build a full-scale replica of Broadway in Los Angeles, after being denied permits to film on location in New York.
He explained: “We were going to get the permits to film on Broadway, shut down eight blocks for three nights, and we were promptly denied. I freaked out, but Netflix was incredibly generous, and they gave us permission to build Broadway, so we did.
“We found a four-acre abandoned lot in downtown LA. and we went to Broadway, and we measured the curves, and the length from the curb to the street, and how many bulbs are on the marquee. And we just built it.”
He added: “We spent we spent six months building Broadway, we did a little bit of special effects, but it was an amazing thing, and I was really proud of how that came together.”