Ryan Murphy reveals The Prom’s most powerful moment wasn’t even in the script

Reiss Smith December 11, 2020
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James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Keegan-Michael Key in The Prom

James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Keegan-Michael Key in The Prom. (Netflix)

The Prom director Ryan Murphy has revealed that the most magical moment of the new Netflix musical wasn’t even in the script. Warning – mild spoilers follow.

The Prom is loosely based on a true story, and follows a group of faded Broadway stars as they descend upon small-town Indiana to help Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman), a young lesbian teen denied the chance to attend her school prom with her same-sex date.

After being duped by the duplicitous head of the PTA (Kerry Washington’s Mrs Greene), Emma and the troupe (Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden and Andrew Rannells) set about creating their own inclusive prom for all queer kids.

It’s here that Mrs Greene learns the truth: that Emma’s date, who she has fought so hard to foil, is her own daughter Alyssa (Arianna DeBose). But, in a heartwarming twist, instead of digging her heels in, the once-homophobe decides to embrace her daughter for who she is.

Jo Ellen Pellman and Ariana DeBose hugging
Jo Ellen Pellman and Ariana DeBose play a lesbian couple. (Netflix)

As mother and daughter embrace, the room erupts into applause – something that Murphy said wasn’t actually in his script.

“It happened organically on the first take, and I was like: ‘Oh, I’m gonna use that,’” he said during a Q&A.

Murphy also spoke about how the final scene was for many of the queer teens who appear in the scene, the closest thing to a real prom they had experienced.

“For those kids, that was their prom,” he said.

“There were 100 of them, and they did not get to go to a prom. They walked in, and I didn’t let them really see the room, I think, until the first take. It was built for them.

“And they got to be with these amazing performers and hang out with us for two days, it was really, so moving. It was so great.”

Kerry Washington said that many of the teens present were “weeping” at the moment of acceptance between her character and DeBose’s.

“So many of them were weeping and saying: ‘I wish my mother had said that to me,'” she recalled.

“It was just so powerful for us to be in that shared space of finding and belonging as an entire production, we all felt the need to express that unconditional love and acceptance of each other, it was so powerful.”

The Scandal star gave an insight into her process, explaining that she didn’t want her character to be “a stereotypical bad guy”, and that she wanted to make her “a little bit aspirational” for parents who might be watching.

“It’s so easy for us to judge and to say: ‘You’re a bad mom.’

“I want her to be understandable. I want us to feel like we know her and love her, but she’s just got this real problem with her homophobia. And so I really loved finding that, bringing some additional three dimensionality to her.”

The Prom is streaming on Netflix now.

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