“Drop Dead Diva” tackles LGBT discrimination this week in “The Prom”

 
 

The story of Constance McMillen‘s courage to stand up and fight for the right to go to her high school prom with her girlfriend is one that is near and dear to writers and readers alike here at AfterEllen.com. Many of us have had to stand up to bullies in our lives, but not too many of us have had to be the David to the Goliath of an entire school administration and the towns we live in.

Constance’s bravery touched the lives of many people, including Josh Berman, the series creator and executive producer of one of my favorite surprises on television, Drop Dead Diva. After hearing Wanda Sykes talk about Constance’s story at the GLAAD awards last year, he told me, “I was incredibly moved by Constance’s courage and fortitude. I decided in that moment, that I had to write an episode inspired by her story.”

Brooke Elliott, Wanda Sykes and Constance McMillen

This week’s episode, “The Prom,” is inspired by Constance’s story and includes a stellar lineup of guest stars including Lance Bass, Sykes, Amanda Bearse, Clay Aiken and even a cameo from Constance herself. The episode’s director, out lesbian Jamie Babbit (But I’m a Cheerleader, Itty Bitty Titty Committee), said of the episode:

We definitely had the best cast for this, including our regular cast as well as the guest stars. That was definitely a tribute to Constance and people wanting to be a part of the episode to show support for her and everything she’s stood up for. So that was awesome to work with such a wonderful cast — my favorite being Wanda Sykes — who is hilarious and a pro and funny and just a cool person. That was a real pleasure for me. It was great to direct something about a personal hero of mine. I had known about the Constance McMillen case but I didn’t know all of the details and I obviously didn’t know Constance as a person so it was a real pleasure to be able to meet her.

I realize that not all of you watch Drop Dead Diva — half of you are probably crashing our site trying to read the Pretty Little Liars and Real L Word recaps while it’s airing. I’m fairly certain, though, after watching this episode, many of you will become true fans, not just because this episode is based on Constance’s story, but because it is light-hearted, fun, intelligent and the show’s lead, Jane Bingham (played to perfection by Brooke Elliott) is a character type that is so under-represented in mainstream media today.

For those of you new to the show, the plot revolves around Deb, a superficial and not-so-bright woman with modeling aspirations, who ends up dying in a car accident as she paints her nails while driving to an audition. She finds a way to get herself back down to earth but, when she wakes up, she finds herself in Jane’s body. The past two seasons she’s had to struggle with being trapped in someone else’s body (but, thankfully, with that person’s intellgence). To add insult to injury, she has to work side by side with her former fiance, Grayson, in the same law office and is unable to tell him who she really is. Deb’s best friend, Stacy, and her guardian angel, Fred, are the only two who know her secret (even if Stacy has no clue Fred is an angel).

OK, that pretty much gets you up to speed besides the fact that the fabulous Margaret Cho plays the role of Jane’s secretary. Berman says, “Margaret Cho is an amazing inspiration to me. She is brilliant and beautiful and speaks her mind.  I love writing for her and feel lucky to have the opportunity on a weekly basis. And this season, she gets more to do than ever before.  In particular, she has an amazing episode coming up where she goes head to head with Kathy Griffin and another where she rages against Patty Stanger (The Millionaire Matchmaker). This show can literally be too much fun!”

April Bowlby, Margaret Cho, Clay Aiken, Jackson Hurst

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