Theatre

Dear Evan Hansen’s Jessica Phillips comes out at 50 proving it’s never too late to live your truth

Emily Chudy February 25, 2022
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Dear Evan Hansen actor Jessica Phillips comes out as queer at 50

Dear Evan Hansen actor Jessica Phillips comes out as queer at 50 (Bruce Glikas/Getty Images)

Dear Evan Hansen actor Jessica Phillips has opened up about her sexuality at the age of 50, explaining that lockdown helped her “expand my identity”.

In an interview with People, Phillips explained that when the pandemic halted Broadway shows – including Dear Evan Hansen, in which she was plauing Evan’s mother Heidi – she found herself “at the peak of all this self-discovery and exploration”.

Phillips said that while Broadway was locked down, she went to Los Angeles for a TV job and found herself in isolation, leading her to explore her identity.

“The shutdown really knocked the wind out of me,” she said.

“That period of time really was a beautiful experience for me and also really painful and scary and sad because, as you know, when we open ourselves to change and newness, there’s loss attached to that, and there was a lot of loss for me.

“It wasn’t about changing identities, rather expanding my identity.”


Phillips is now in a relationship with theatrical publicist Chelsea Nachman, who she found a “special connection” with after her second marriage ended.

The two acknowledged their relationship on Instagram in November, with Phillips posting a photo of the pair for Nachman’s birthday.

“It was all of the emotions,” Phillips said of making their relationship public. “It was super scary and super exhilarating. The celebratory part of it was beautiful to me. I was also aware of how surprised people might be or how it might be shocking news to some people.”

She told People that her two sons, aged 18 and 21, have been “supportive” of her coming out.

“They were 100 percent on board and supportive and happy for me,” she said.

“Of course, I was relieved, but I was also surprised that it just wasn’t more of a thing.”

 

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Dear Evan Hansen, which follows a teenager as he struggles with social anxiety disorder and feeling misunderstood by his peers, was “cathartic” for Phillips to perform in as she came out.

“It’s cathartic. It’s heartbreaking. It’s beautiful. It’s real,” she said.

“Not only is this character (Heidi) relatable, I’m also relating to the character. So we have that in common; we have a shared humanity. We are all imperfect, striving to take care of ourselves and our families.”

She added: I do not have it figured out. I do not have the answers, but I certainly feel better knowing that most other people don’t either – that we’re all in it together, that it’s okay, that taking risks is okay, and changing your mind is okay.

The Broadway musical was recently adapted into a movie, with Julianne Moore playing Heidi and Ben Platt reprising the role of Evan Hansen, which he originated on stage.

When the movie was released, Platt said: “Dear Evan Hansen will really hopefully make people feel less alone, which I think everyone really needs at the moment.”

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