Deep Inside Hollywood: Kal Penn

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Kal Penn wearing a red jacket over a black shirt
Kal Penn photo by Kath Click

Kal Penn’s Belated coming out project

Weeks after going public with the news that he’s been in a queer relationship for about 11 years, Harold and Kumar star Kal Penn is already at work on a comedy pilot for FX, and it’s about a man who comes out as gay in his 40s. The project is called Belated, created by Peter Tolan (creator of Rescue Me, who himself came out later in life) and starring Penn as a doctor who enters his 40s and realizes he’s queer.

The series will revolve around his attempts to co-parent with his ex-wife while navigating his new gay life. For a very long time, coming out stories have been dominated by the experiences of young white gay men, so for a sitcom centering on a middle-aged person of color to get a shot is a good sign. More wide-ranging approaches to storytelling mean more queer people get to see their lives represented in film and television. For this, we’re grateful for Penn’s willingness to speak about his life. Fingers crossed for a series order!

Laverne Cox joins the cast of Uglies

At 16, you are forced to get cosmetic surgery to conform to an ideal beauty standard; no average-looking people are allowed in this pretty dystopia. That’s the Logan’s Run-esque premise of Uglies, a futuristic nightmare of sexiness in which you’re not exterminated at 30; you’re simply never allowed to look older than that.

Based on Scott Westerfeld’s bestselling novel, the film adaptation directed by McG, who’ll make it all look sleek and shiny, no doubt—is currently collecting good-looking actors. Joey King (The Kissing Booth) leads the cast in the role of Tally Youngblood (seriously, the best character name) and will be joined by Keith Powers (What/If), Brianne Tju, (I Know What You Did Last Summer) and Chase Stokes (Outer Banks). But it’s the addition of Laverne Cox that has us most excited. No word on who she plays, but we’re hoping she’s a grand villain, someone gorgeous and diabolical. It’ll drop on Netflix when it’s all said and done, so keep your subscription current.

Helena Bonham Carter goes UK soap opera diva for Russell T. Davies.

Queer as Folk and It’s a Sin creator Russell T. Davies is diving deep down the queer British nostalgia well for his next project. It’s called Nolly and stars Helena Bonham Carter as wildly popular British soap star Noele Gordon, who appeared for over 20 years on the series Crossroads.

Here’s where American audiences need a quick history lesson: Gordon was beloved. In fact, she was too beloved for network executives, who wanted to fire her and cancel the show that they deemed old-fashioned, in spite of its ongoing success. Sacked, they call it over there, and sack her they did, much to the dismay of Gordon and her fans. But Gordon persisted and thrived, having the last laugh. It’s going to be wonderful to see a legendary character actor like Helena Bonham Carter portray a different sort of legend. And if we miss some of the finer points, we’ll just text our British gays and have them fill in the blanks.

Lady Chatterly’s Lover comes again

Emma Corrin, breakout star of The Crown where she wowed audiences as Princess Diana, who also identifies as queer, will take on the role of Lady Constance Chatterly—the well-born woman who risks it all to have an affair with the gamekeeper—in a new adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s legendarily scandalous novel Lady Chatterly’s Lover.

This iteration, already in production for Netflix in the UK, is directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre (The Mustang) and stars fellow queer actor Ella Hunt (Anna and the Apocalypse) as well as Jack O’Connell (Godless) and Matthew Duckett (A Confession). There have been some pretty racy film versions of this story over the years—the novel more or less established “torrid” as a contemporary genre—but with a woman in the director’s chair, we’re hoping for a fresh take on that. Ideally, what we’re looking for here is some meaningfully horny and cinematic golden-age feminist television. And we’ll wait until 2022 to get it.

Romeo San Vicente is Lord Chatterly’s lover.