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Michael Urie On What Makes His Queer Role In Shrinking So Revolutionary

Michael Urie On What Makes His Queer Role In Shrinking So Revolutionary

Michael Urie and Devin Kawaoka in Shrinking
Courtesy of Apple TV+

PRIDE speaks with the actor about his charming new show, the evolution of representation, and what he mopped from the Shrinking set.


The Apple TV+ series Shrinking may be the most charming and life-affirming show about grieving ever made. If that sounds odd, consider the talent involved both in front of and behind the camera. The series creators, Bill Lawrence and Brett Goldstein, both hail from Ted Lasso, another show that’s pure TV serotonin. Plus, Shrinking stars human charm bombs like Jason Segel, Jessica Williams, Harrison Ford, and the always delightful Michael Urie.

The show follows Sean (Segel), a grieving therapist who decides to throw all the rules out the door and instead tell his patients exactly what’s on his mind. In doing so, he has a major impact on the lives of everyone around him, including his friends, clients, colleagues, family — and, of course, himself.

Michael Urie in Shrinking

Courtesy of Apple TV+

Urie stars as Brian Lorenzo, an attorney and best friend to Sean, who has been studiously ghosting Brian since the death of his wife. However, as his life begins to spin out of control, he needs Brian’s help bringing together a group of disparate people, all facing their own struggles and forms of grief — be it the loss of a loved one, a marriage, or even their health — to form the kind of unique family that you can’t help but love and want to spend time with.

Urie felt like he was making something special while filming the first season, but it was confirmed when he sat down to watch the final product with his partner, fellow actor Ryan Spahn. “At one point, he was like, I know it’s good because I’m not trying to think of things to talk about. I’m just enjoying it. And I want to know what happens. And I’m invested in these people. And I’m not trying to think what compliment can I give Michael about his scenes in that episode or anything,” Urie tells PRIDE with a laugh.

Watch PRIDE’s full interview with Michael Urie below. 

One of the greatest strengths of the show comes down to the chemistry of its stars. “It is one of those shows where there’s no two people who are the same, which I think always makes for more fun connections and more fun chemistry opportunities,” explains Urie. “We all kind of were in our own lanes, representing our own things and having our own points of view about what was going on in the show. So it makes it a lot more fun because you just sort of can trust that what you’re doing is right for you.”

And he has nothing but praise for his co-stars, in particular Segel. “He’s just so lovable and he has such an effortless charm to him. And kindness. He really knows how to be a great leader and like a cuddly, lovely, sweet, approachable colleague and boss,” Urie shares.

Jason Segel and Michael Urie in Shrinking play pickle ball

Courtesy of Apple TV+

The two have a loving but adversarial friendship, in part because Segel’s Sean is processing his loss, and Urie’s Brian is the embodiment of toxic positivity, although that ultimately hides a deeper sadness. Brian is a successful attorney with an amazing (and handsome) partner named Charlie (Devin Kawaoka), whom he is going to get around to proposing to any day now if he can just get over his cold feet.

It was a part that might not have been originally written for Urie, but once he was cast, however, it was adapted to fit him perfectly. For one thing Urie, like Brian, is a queer man who grew up in Texas. It’s one of many details the writers added to the character, says Urie. “[The writers] were really great about tailoring it to us. And we did some improv, and it almost never happens. But if there’s ever something where I’m like, I wonder if I shouldn’t say it like this. Or if this reference would be more like this, they’re always so quick to make sure it’s comfortable coming out of your mouth,” he shares.

Michael Urie and Vanessa williams in ugly Betty

Courtesy of ABC

Adding that detail about where Brian is from ultimately impacted the character’s arc, which involves his relationship with his parents — and their relationship to his queerness. ”He has a good relationship with his parents. But there’s some kind of disconnect,” teases Urie, adding this nuance adds a unique spin to the way Shrinking explores a complicated dynamic between parents and their queer child. “It’s a little different than anything I’ve seen before because we’ve obviously seen the queer parents not accepting their child. And we’ve seen your parents over-accepting their child. And I’ve been in all those shows,” he says with a laugh.

Urie is right in saying he’s uniquely able to recognize the way that these narratives have grown and altered over the years. “It’s wild to have had a bit of a front-row seat to have been, you know, and I think about when my character [Marc] on Ugly Betty came out to his mother, it was bad. And she turned her back on him and never came back in four seasons. And that was true to its time,” recalls Urie. “It meant a lot to a lot of people, I think, for that show, because a lot of people came to that show with an open mind and an open heart. I heard from so many families who saw that episode, and it helped their families kind of see, ‘Oh, gosh, we don’t want to be that, we don’t want to become that extreme. So let’s, let’s navigate a little bit more towards acceptance and in our own family.’ Or kids saying that it gave them the courage to come out or parents saying that it gave them the courage to tell their kids if you were to come out, I wouldn’t be that way I would be okay with it.”

Michael Urie and mark indelicato in Ugly Betty

Courtesy of ABC

Ugly Betty ran for four seasons, which proved long enough for Urie to watch the pendulum swing in the other direction as well. He points to another coming-out episode, this time by Mark Indelicato’s Justin. “His family sees that he’s gonna come out. We’ve known the audience’s known, we’ve all known, we see the family throw him a party, like a coming out party before he’s ready,” Urie explains. “My character Marc has to say no, you can’t do that, this is too much. You can’t force him into it. Even those three years, between these two episodes... to watch where we’d come in [that time] and have the opposite extremes of familial acceptance, was amazing.”

For Brian, his father lands somewhere in the messy, gray middle — which may be the most relatable response of them all — but still incredibly painful. “It’s, it’s subtle, and yet it goes all the way to Brian’s core,” says Urie.

Michael Urie and Devin Kawaoka in Shrinking

mark indelicato

What’s truly impressive is how Shrinking manages this delicate balancing act of warmth, humor, and achingly dark subject matter, but somehow pulls it off without leaving the audience with tonal or emotional whiplash — although there will be moments when the audience will find themselves giggling while also wiping away tears.

No doubt Urie’s extensive theatrical background helps him to straddle the two lanes of comedy and melodrama. It also keeps the actor (and director) very busy. Urie is fresh off of performing in a new play, Jane Anger, written specifically for him and his partner, Spahn, by Talene Monahon. Urie describes the story as a feminist revenge comedy that’s loosely based on the historical figures of William Shakespeare and Jane Anger. “I played William Shakespeare in quarantine during the Black Plague trying to write King Lear,” he recounts. “Jane Anger is this actual character from from from history who we don’t really know much about who wrote feminist letters, and had them published under the name Jane Anger which was not obviously a real name, but nobody knows who she was or who they were and Tolene imagines that she knew Shakespeare. And so, Shakespeare needs her to help him write King Lear and she needs him to help get her letters published. It rewrites history, obviously, because we don’t know that they knew each other at all, but it’s a version of Shakespeare that is a sort of toxic, petulant man-baby.”

It began as a two-man play written by Tolene for Urie and Spahn during quarantine as something they could do on Zoom. It proved so popular that she added a third character and they moved it to the stage. After a successful run in New York and Washington DC Urie hopes that the play will continue in a new city sometime in the future.

It will have to wait, however, as Urie has also taken on the directorial role for another theater production, this time in Dallas. “Silver Foxes is a new play about old guys who live together in Palm Springs. And we’re doing it at the Uptown players in Dallas, Texas, which is where I’m from. I’m from Plan, which is outside Dallas, and it’s this really amazing queer theater company that’s been around for about 20 years. And we’ve got a totally local cast of amazing Dallas actors. And we run at the Theater Three, that’s the venue for a few weeks,” says Urie. “It’s going to be so exciting to build it and create it with these actors in this town. And so I’m really excited to go and immerse myself in this play in this new city for a little while.”

Jason Segal and Jessica Williams in Shrinking

Courtesy of Apple TV+

But first up, of course, is the premiere of Shrinking, which heads to Apple TV+ next week — the creation of which Urie enjoyed, but confesses he took more away from the set than just pleasant memories: He got a souvenir as well. “You know the director’s chairs on the set? They have an actor’s name [on them and] you don’t sit in that. That’s Harrison Ford’s chair or whatever. I took mine. Yeah. I’m not sure that I was supposed to, but it said season one, you know it said my name... but I didn’t ask, I just took it,” he reveals with a laugh.

It’s not the first time Urie has made off with a memento from a set. “I still use Vanessa Williams’ desk as our dining table. Vanessa Williams’s desk from Ugly Betty is still on our dining table. I have the cast iron valve from Angels in America that’s absolutely still there,” he shares. “We’re in a much more minimalist apartment now. So it’s not quite as jam-packed with our memorabilia, but my plan is to someday have a table somewhere surrounded by director’s chairs with all the different sets I’ve taken them for. I’ve got a lot, I’ve got a lot of them,” he laughs.

Shrinking premieres January 27 on Apple TV+. Watch the trailer below.

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Rachel Shatto

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Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.