Every year, Netflix releases a handful of cute holiday movies that rival Hallmark or Lifetime specials. The latest addition to the streaming platform’s feel-good holiday rom-com repertoire? Single All the Way, a story about a Los Angeles social media manager named Peter (Michael Urie), who gets the brilliant idea to bring his best friend home for the holidays and convince his family that they are boyfriends so they stop pestering him about his love live. Nick, his best friend played by Philemon Chambers, on the other hand, is not having it—he refuses to lie to Peter’s family, which consists of characters played by Kathy Najimy, Barry Bostwick, Jennifer Coolidge, and Jennifer Robertson.
It’s no secret that appearing in a Netflix holiday vehicle can boost your status, but down-to-earth Chambers is just getting started. Read on to find out how the Netflix newcomer is bracing for the inevitable attention, his social media do’s and don’ts, and why he feels that Single All the Way is a step in the right direction for gay representation on TV.
How’d you find yourself in the mix with Single all the Way?
My agents got me the script. I read it and loved the relationship and dynamic between Nick and Peter, because I’m like, that’s me with my best friend! I sent in the self tape, got the chemistry read with Michael Urie, and the rest is history.
Were you a fan of Michael Urie’s work on television or on stage before working with him?
All I watched with my godmother growing up was Ugly Betty. To be acting alongside him and then not only him, but can we talk about the elephant in the room? Jennifer Coolidge! And Kathy Najimy. I mean, Hocus Pocus?! I just didn’t comprehend. And then Barry Bostwick! I am a huge, huge Rocky Horror Picture Show fan. And throughout the recent years I became a fan of Schitt’s Creek, and I got to work alongside Jennifer Robertson. I had fanboy moments all the time.
You mentioned the Nick and Peter dynamic being similar to the one you have with your best friend. Have you ever been in a situation similar to theirs, where you’ve gone to a friend’s family’s house for holiday events?
To pretend we’re boyfriends? That’s never happened. I’ve gone to a friend’s for Thanksgiving or Christmas. But I would be like, I’m not lying to your family!
After years of releasing original holiday films, Single All the Way is Netflix’s first gay holiday comedy. How does it feel to be at the forefront of something that should’ve happened years ago?
At the time of filming, I didn’t realize what impact this was going to have, or the aftermath. But once I got home and was able to have a moment to myself, it clicked for me. I was like, I’m what I needed when I was younger. We didn’t have these positive representations of gay folks on TV. It had to have some sort of negativity or homophobia to it, or it was a coming out story that went wrong.
Do you think this movie will be the first of many of its kind?
I definitely think this is going to be the first of many. People are not afraid to tell these stories of being authentic and genuine. It means the world to me to have this type of representation, especially coming from a Black standpoint—again, I didn’t have that. There are many levels of representation in this film, whether from the Black perspective or family dynamic. My family is accepting of me. I’m very aware that not everybody is fortunate enough to be in that position. You see the dynamic between Peter and his family, and they want him to be happy. They accept him. I mean, his mom is reading a book about raising an LGBTQ child. This film speaks on unconditional love.
Let’s get into some of these Social Q’s. Your Instagram handle is just your full name now, but did you ever consider making it something more fun?
My Instagram name at one point in time was @thechaseandcounting. I really don’t know why. Then for a long time it was @wolvesandgods; I had this obsession with wolves in Greek mythology. But then I settled on Philemon Chambers—I don’t know of any other Philemons! But fun fact: there is a bar in Montreal where we filmed, and it’s called Philemon Bar.
What’s the story behind your first Instagram photo?
I was adorable. I had to be in elementary school. Picture day! You can’t be mad at me—I had the big eyes. I just love me as a kid, I thought I was super adorable and hopefully other people thought so, too.
What’s your secret to a good selfie?
Lighting, lighting, lighting. Hands down. Sometimes even the weirdest angles turn out to be really good. You would think certain things wouldn’t work, but I would say, bottom line, lighting. And a good background. Nothing plain.
Filter or no filter?
No filter! You’re beautiful the way you are.
Describe yourself in three emojis.
😭😂🤯. I’m not going to lie to you, I haven’t used emojis in a minute. I’m a GIF guy.
What are your social media pet peeves?
I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I feel like a lot of people try to keep up this image that is very hard to maintain, and it perpetuates people not feeling like enough. When you relinquish that idea and just see social media as something to have fun with and also have a voice, I feel like it becomes better and more doable. It doesn’t have to be this keeping up with the Joneses thing— you don’t have to compete with everybody else. Since we are very social media-based nowadays, you can look at a picture and think, I want to be just like that. Still, you don’t know how that picture was taken, what that person was going through. All you see is the picture.
You’re starring in a contemporary romantic comedy, so I have to ask—what is the best way to slide into someone’s DMs?
If you’re going to slide into somebody’s DMs, you gotta play it cool. You can’t just be like, Hey, how you doing? What you should do is reply to an Instagram story with one of the emoji options. If they comment back, that gives you that way in. If they heart the emoji, then you kind of end the game. But there’s a difference if they heart it or if they respond to it.
Do you ever respond to DMs?
I do! A lot of people have been super kind, sending me well-wishes. I’ve been receiving so much love. I’ll be like, “Oh my God, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. I’m over here crying while typing this, thank you!”
Are you prepared for the extra attention you’ll get online once more people have seen the movie?
At the end of the day, I don’t hype myself up that much. That hasn’t really popped into my head! I’m a down-to-earth guy.
How do you tell a friend when they’re doing way too much on social media?
I’ll just tell them! When it comes to friends, best friends, family, I leave that door open for you to come to me. If I’m doing too much, let me know. And I will do the same thing in return. I would definitely let you know that you are doing way too much or need to take down a little thirst trap.
Is there one thing you’d never share on social media?
I mean...we do live in an “OF” society. I know you know what I mean by that. So, yeah, there are a lot of things I wouldn’t post. [Laughs.]
Do you follow exes or block them?
I have a good relationship and a good rapport with my exes. At the end of the day, if you unfollow, then you unfollow. If they unfollow, I’ll unfollow back. Sometimes breakups are amicable, and sometimes they’re not. I get it.
How do you unplug?
I will get in the shower, lights off, candles burning. That is my unplugged moment. That is where I will not answer my phone. You can’t bother me.