It’s the most wonderful time of the year because Paramount decided to take a risk and make a feel good Holiday rom-com centring around a very unlikely gay couple.
Written and directed by Jake Helgren, “Dashing in December” follows Wyatt (Peter Porte), a sophisticated, New York City financier who returns home for the holidays in an effort to convince his mother, Deb (Andie MacDowell), to sell the family’s ranch and beloved magical Winter Wonderland attraction. In the midst of his mission, an unexpected romance ignites with the new ranch hand Heath (Juan Pablo di Pace) reawakening the spirit of Christmas.
“The movie started as more of a traditional rom-com, and Paramount pushed the envelope to be more earnest and honest in what it takes to be two men in a relationship, and how that meeting of two very different kinds of people can be,” di Pace tells ET Canada.
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“Jake [Helgren] and I have done so many holiday movies before and we’re pretty familiar with the formula of what people are looking for, so I think what started as something pretty traditional when it comes to a classic Christmas rom-com, started to evolve when Paramount kept telling us to push the envelope to make it more earnest and more authentic,” Porte added.
In preparation for the film, Porte admitted there weren’t many conversations between himself, Helgren and di Pace in how they want to accurately showcase two men falling in love on screen, because as two gay men themselves, they already recognize the “little nuances” and wanted the interactions and embraces to look and feel natural.
“To create an authentic portrayal of this relationship, we didn’t have much talk. First of all, we only knew each other very briefly beforehand. We had met at a charity event the year before, so I knew who he was, but I didn’t really know him much besides that,” Porte said of his co-star. “I think that made it pretty natural, because when [our characters] first meet, it’s not off to the races. It was more like what would it be like if you didn’t know each other, you were at odds with your intentions for the same thing, which is the ranch, and you have a chemistry that is undeniable and see what happens with it.”
But the first time the actors could watch their work on screen, it got emotional, especially for di Pace who only publicly opened up about his sexuality a year ago.
“I watched the film yesterday for the first time and I was surprised to shed a tear the moment when the two characters have their first intimate contact. It’s not really a kiss. It’s just a hug, but I just found myself being so moved because I have never seen myself like that with a man on-screen,” di Pace said. “It’s been cathartic to me too because it’s just lovely to see without any regret or shame on screen.”
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While 2020 has been a rollercoaster, this holiday season has brought viewers many LGBTQ Holiday rom-coms from Paramount’s “Dashing in December” to Hulu’s “Happiest Season” and Hallmark’s “The Christmas House”, a Hollywood transition Porte was more than ready for.
“We’ve seen the story told in a certain way so many times and after a while it gets repetitive,” Porte said. “There’s a beauty in knowing what comes next, but also with so much entertainment out there today, we’re all looking for the next new, exciting way to tell the story, and I think this was inevitable, and thank goodness for it because it’s an important story to be told, and an exciting one, and I’m glad to be part of this little movement.”
“I’ll go even further and say that because of these holiday movies, I’m kind of bored of the straight stories and I just want to see the gay ones because it’s more interesting since we haven’t see them,” di Pace added.
Watch “Dashing in December” Dec. 13 on the Paramount Network.