It’s not easy to upstage Molly Shannon, but when you’re as fabulous as 14-year-old J.J. Totah, you just can’t help yourself.
Totah, who appeared on Glee as Myron Muskovitz and as Stuart on Disney Channel’s Jesse, is at Sundance this week, where he took the stage to support Chris Kelly’s cancer dramedy, Other People.
And if you watched the press conference, you’ll never forget him.
The movie follows, David (Jesse Plemons), a gay comedy writer who returns to Sacramento to care for his ailing mother (Molly Shannon) and come to terms with his distant father (Bradley Whitford).
Totah only appears a few times in the movie, as Justin, the flamboyant younger brother of Jesse’s best friend. But he makes each moment his own.
When Justin first appears, he struts into the room and hits on Plemons, who is much his senior.
He’s confident, comfortable, and doesn’t have any issues with how the world sees him—as evidenced in his second scene, which he spends in drag, twerking for his family.
But even when Totah’s just talking about the film, he’s a scene-stealer: When the cast and Kelly awkwardly took the stage after the Sundance screening (where a few prudes walked out over gay sex scenes), it was clear this 14-year-old was the one to win the crowd.
Asked if he understood the importance to young people of seeing a character like his onscreen, Totah said:
“My character’s a boy who’s comfortable with himself, and a lot of people haven’t seen it before.
I think it’s really important for a lot of kids out there, whether you be boy, girl, not determined yet — that’s okay, honey! It’s okay.FayesVision/WENN.com
You can do whatever you wanna do. If you’re a girl — girl, you get on the football team, okay? If you identify as a boy, you put on some makeup and you work that stage!
Use color and paint a picture, honey! That’s what we should do more, right?
All of the children need to know, all of the little kiddies and fetuses out there. Even if they’re not out of the womb yet, they need to know that it’s okay to be whoever the heck you are.”
What’s more, Totah created most of Justin himself, in conversations with writer-director Kelley during his audition.
“[We] went to this cute little coffee shop up in Silver Lake,” Totah recalled, “and we talked about it over some oatmeal and a glass of ice water. And then Justina Carrara was created.”
Keep watch—this kid is going places.