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‘Willow’ Actor Erin Kellyman Talks About Queer Role Models Onscreen

Erin Kellyman as Jade in 'Willow,' riding a horse.

Willow is now streaming on Disney+, and if you’re watching it, then you’ve been treated to one of the sweetest love stories currently on TV. The ensemble cast includes Ruby Cruz as Kit, princess of Tir Asleen, and Erin Kellyman as Jade, a young warrior who wants to become a knight. Kit is no damsel in distress, but Jade still acts as her protector. The first episode finds the pair sparring on a mountaintop, and we soon learn that they’re in love.

Spoilers ahead for episodes 5 and 6 of Willow.

But, like any good love story, their romance is a slow burn filled with conflict. Kit is frustrated at the limitations placed on her because she’s a princess. Jade is torn between her love for Kit and her desire to go off and train to be a knight, and Kit is angry at Jade for leaving her (before all hell breaks loose and they’re sent off on their quest, that is).

In episode 5, Kit and Jade finally get to be honest with each other about their feelings. However, just as they’re about to kiss, Kit is kidnapped by trolls and taken prisoner. The couple hasn’t had a chance to catch their breath since then.

In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Kellyman, who also identifies as queer, talked about how meaningful it was for her to portray a queer character onscreen—especially since she didn’t get to see these kinds of love stories when she was growing up:

It feels like I’m healing my inner child. Having not seen these shows when I was younger, now being able to be the representation that I didn’t have is something that is so peaceful. There’s something so peaceful about it, something so reassuring and calming. I know that if I saw this when I was a kid, I would have been completely in love with Kit and Jade, and I would have felt a lot less isolated and scared and weird. So, it’s just really beautiful to be able to do that now.

In the interview, Kellyman also talks about how the production allowed her and Cruz to flesh out their characters. They had a month to train, rehearse, and delve into Jade and Kit’s connection. “We did a lot of prep into their backstories,” Kellyman says. “Deciding whether this was the first time that they’ve kissed or not, deciding when they first realized that they had feelings for each other. It was really great to have somebody to bounce off.”

Kellyman’s story is yet another example of how life-changing it can be to see yourself represented onscreen. Stories like Kit and Jade’s romance are vital to queer audiences, especially younger viewers. Here’s hoping there are plenty more to come.

(featured image: Disney+)

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Julia Glassman (she/her) lives in Los Angeles, where she reads tarot and watches Marvel movies. You can check out more of her writing at linktr.ee/juliaglassman, or find her on Twitter at @juliaglassman.