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James Corden credits director Ryan Murphy with his performance in ‘The Prom’

Meryl Streep and James Corden in The Prom (Photo by Melissa Gordon/Netflix)

It’s no secret that James Corden is a huge fan of musical theatre. The talk show hosts regularly produces segments, from “Carpool Karaoke” to “Crosswalk: The Musical,” that employ his and his guest’s theatrical talents, and he’s also no stranger to movie musicals after his performance in Cats last year. 

So when Ryan Murphy asked him to star as Barry, a gay spirit guide of sorts for high school lesbian Emma who is banned from bringing her girlfriend to prom, in The Prom, he had an easy answer. 

“How often do parts come along where it’s comical — he’s got so many sharp, cutting lines — matched with big show-stopping numbers matched with genuine depth and emotion in him?” Corden said in a virtual press conference. 

Corden credits director Ryan Murphy with guiding him through the whole experience and easing any nerves he might have had about tackling this character. 

“I owe it all to Ryan, obviously. Not just in the script that was delivered but in the way that he guided me through it,” Corden said. “We talked at length about concerns that I may have had and he just put my mind at ease every single step of the way. He just guided me through it with a beautiful amount of care that I felt so confident throughout the whole process really.”

Corden was particularly moved by the relationship between Barry and Emma. The Broadway star seems himself in the small-town girl fighting for justice, and the two form a special bond. 

“For Barry, as soon as he sees Emma, he sees himself in her completely,” Corden said. “And I think part of him wishes he'd had somebody like him around in those times and those moments.”

And Corden formed a similar relationship with Jo Ellen Pellman, who plays Emma, offscreen. “I was blown away by Jo Ellen and in pretty much every scene that we were in, I really felt like I was watching the start of a career,” Corden said. “I just thought, well, here's an actress I'm going to watch for the rest of my life.”

The Prom premieres on Netflix on December 11 and is in select movie theatres now. 


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