Actor and TV host Jonathan Bennett is currently busy promoting his appearance on Hallmark’s holiday movie, The Christmas House 2: Deck Those Halls.
Bennett, who first found fame in the movie Mean Girls, plays gay character Brandon in The Christmas House 2. He’s married to Jake (played by Brad Harder), and they’re raising two young kids.
On Instagram, Bennett praised Hallmark for making the movie and its representation of a same-sex couple. He also took the opportunity to reflect on his career in Hollywood over the last 20 years, and the pressure so many gay men put themselves under to overachieve or appear perfect.
Many mental health experts believe this is because gay people receive messages when younger that they are “less than” or “wrong”, leading to overcompensating behavior.
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“Brandon and Jake talk about a lot of things,” Bennett said, “but as a gay man, the part of their story I identified with the most, was the desire to have to be perfect.
“I think a lot of LGBTQ+ people will see themselves in these characters. The truth is, there is a lot of internal pressure that many queer people experience to be perfect. The perfect parents, or perfect partner, or neighbor. To quote my character, ‘Because the second we’re not, the second, you can feel the looks.’
“That line really hit home for me, because being a gay actor in Hollywood for 20 years, has been beyond a mental challenge, it feels like I’ve been running a 10,000-mile marathon that’s completely uphill. Going into rooms and auditioning, is one of the most vulnerable moments you can have.
“As a leading man, instead of focusing on my work in the scene, the voice in my head becomes, ‘Do they know I’m gay? Will they still cast me? Don’t use your hands too much when you talk, stand straight, deepen your voice.’
“The only way I felt I could compensate for all these things, was to be perfect and try to overachieve.
“I can tell you it is the most exhausting existence that takes you to a very dark place. But, it is a reality so many of us queer people deal with.
“I want to applaud the people at @hallmarkchannel and creators of The Christmas House. I don’t think you understand how much these stories matter. It is an honor to get to be the vessel for this one. And to be an OUT and proud gay man that no longer walks into rooms scared he’s not good enough but walks in knowing he’s celebrated for being himself, and for Hallmark Channel to lead by example, and show the world, this is ALSO what a LEADING MAN looks like, leaves me speechless.”
He invited others to share their own stories if his words resonated with them, before reminding them: “You’re never too much, and you’re always enough.”
One commentator said, “This was the exact conversation I just had with my therapist. I’ve always tried to be the perfect son or employee to prove my worth to others. This has been so damaging to my mental health, so it warms my heart to see that message shared on such a large platform. We need this representation so other queer youth can learn that they are enough.”
Another said they identified with “always trying to be the perfect son, worker, friend and even the perfect gay men to other gay men, because there’s a lot of pressures and insanely high standards in the GBTQ men community, the way you have to look, the way you have to behave, the way you have to talk, the way you have to dress.”
Besides playing a husband in The Christmas House, in real life, Bennett is engaged to Jaymes Vaughan (The Amazing Race, Celebrity Page). The couple met in 2016 and confirmed their engagement in November 2020.
The Christmas House 2: Deck Those Halls premieres on Saturday (Dec 18).