Michael Urie and Devere Rogers on Interracial Gay Romance in Broadway's 'Chicken & Biscuits'

by Ryan Leeds

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday November 4, 2021
Originally published on October 26, 2021

(l to r) Ebony Marshall-Oliver, Michael Urie & Devere Rogers in a scene from Chicken & Biscuits."
(l to r) Ebony Marshall-Oliver, Michael Urie & Devere Rogers in a scene from Chicken & Biscuits."  (Source:Emilio Madrid)

Navigating family dynamics can prove challenging. For LGBTQ+ couples in interracial relationships, bringing partners around loved ones can cause even more issues. This is one of the more comedic and poignant plotlines within the new Broadway play, "Chicken & Biscuits."

Kenny (Devere Rogers), the gay Black son of a pastor, has just lost his grandfather and wants to bring his long-term partner, Logan (Michael Urie), a white Jewish man, to the funeral. Logan, certain that Kenny's family dislikes him, is resistant to the request but ultimately agrees.

Rogers (he/him/his), a young Black actor who identifies as bisexual, has never been in an interracial relationship. Urie (he/him/his), who identifies as queer, recently celebrated his relationship of 13 years with Ryan Spahn, a fellow actor who is also white.

Although the two have had little personal experience with interracial relationships, they quickly developed a bond with one another and found instant chemistry. Both relied on the mixed-race relationship insight of others to inform their roles in "Chicken & Biscuits" and spoke with EDGE about the play.

"Kenny and Logan are in a genuine, careful, nurturing, and intimate relationship and we used the real-life relationships of friends and family to get insight," Urie said. "So much research you do for a show is helpful, and so much is not," he added. "With Devere, we connected and made each other laugh instantly, so I knew that it would work right away. That's exactly what Kenny and Logan do, so it was very easy to just sit into it."

Rogers echoed the sentiment, "I was really anticipating getting into the rehearsal room with Michael to see what our chemistry would be. Immediately, I thought, 'Oh! He's gonna be my husband for the next five months. This is amazing!"

The two had not worked together before this collaboration, but ironically, they once worked on the same television pilot for the same writer and director, playing the same character.

"There is no way that the two of us could have interpreted that character the same way, and it got me thinking that somebody somehow sees us in the same way," said Urie.

It's a perspective that Rogers also noted. "Many interracial couples I spoke with said that they didn't see race, but rather the spirit of the person. So, society puts the perception on that, but individuals don't. I find that interesting."

(l to r) Alapaki Yee and Salvatore Garanzini.
(l to r) Alapaki Yee and Salvatore Garanzini.  

Alapaki Yee, co-founder of the San Francisco-based Gay Couples Institute, has, along with his husband Salvatore Garanzini, worked with nearly 4,000 couples, 40% of whom are interracial.

"The biggest issues we see are helping couples feel more known, respected, seen, and paid attention to. Conflict comes with the beliefs of 'You don't understand my past, you don't understand my trauma, you don't understand what it's like to be (fill in ethnicity) in the United States.'"

Yee has discovered that lasting couples exhibit trust, commitment and friendship towards one another. "The ability to manage conflict and create co-shared existence with each other is also important," Yee reflected. "Finding ways to listen before you're listened to. Hear before you're heard. Those qualities are also meaningful." But, above all, Yee believes that the paramount question is: "Will you be there for me when I need you most?"

For Kenny and Logan, that question is tested in "Chicken & Biscuits," specifically when Kenny introduces his family to Logan simply as a "friend." For such family gatherings, Yee supports unity. "The couple needs to be a team. Each one must allow the other to be heard about what fears and reservations around being around family might be, and each one must not act defensively."

EDGE asked Yee, Rogers, and Urie to identify the most successful ingredients for relationships. "Couples who last long-term are friends. When they have that, everything else can flourish," Yee said. "How much time do you spend asking your partner 'how are you' or 'what are your long term goals' and exploring other deep questions?" Yee's data cites that most couples only spend about 34 minutes a week discussing these matters.

Rogers believes that the core of a solid relationship is communication and has practiced it in his own relationships. "Compromise is big," he said. "You have two different people from two different experiences, and it's hard to be on the same page all the time."

Urie agreed. "Compromise is also the advice I'd give. Also, if one of us is really stressed, the other must keep his cool," he advised. Urie's parents recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. "I overheard my father say that patience is key," he said. "It seems like a simple idea, but that is a long haul through children, homes, layoffs, deaths and other events. If you can be patient with all that — as well as what your partner throws at you — that's massive. But you do it because you realize that life is better with them."

"Chicken & Biscuits"
Circle in the Square, 1633 Broadway on 50th between Broadway and 8th Ave., NYC
Through January 2, 2022

Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater, food, and nightlife journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine and The Broadway Blog. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.