Jo Ellen Pellman in 'The Prom'

'The Prom' Star Jo Ellen Pellman Thought Her Audition Was "A Long Shot"

Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix

It's an understatement to say The Prom has a star-studded cast. The new movie musical features multiple Oscar winners and TV stars, including Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden, and Kerry Washington. But there's also a newcomer starring in the movie who is catching audiences' attention. Fans want to know: Who plays Emma in The Prom? Jo Ellen Pellman is a name you're going to want to remember.

The Prom, an adaptation of the 2018 Tony-nominated musical of the same name, is brought to life by producer and director Ryan Murphy. The movie follows the story of a high school girl who is banned from attending prom with her girlfriend, so a group of over-the-top Broadway stars invade her Indiana small town to help bring her a celebratory night she deserves. Murphy gathered a bunch of A-list talent to star in the project. But when it came time to cast Emma, the high school student at the center of the story, Murphy chose Pellman, a 25-year-old actor who isn't a household name... yet.

The Prom is Pellman's first major role. In fact, she was working in a stockroom at a retail chain in New York City when she found out she was cast in The Prom. Pellman has a lot in common with her character. Like Emma, Pellman is in the LGBTQ+ community, but that's not the only commonality they share. "We’re both from the Midwest, and we both love a good blazer,” Pellman told Glamour about her character. “I even wore blazers in elementary school — I loved them so much.”

Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix

According to Pellman's interview in The New York Times, her Ohio high school was a bit more progressive than Emma's fictional one. But just like Emma, Pellman fights IRL to create a more inclusive world. She and her The Prom co-star, Ariana DeBose, who plays Emma's girlfriend Alyssa, have created the Unruly Hearts Initiative. The project, which is named after a song from The Prom, works connect young LGBTQ+ people with organizations that help provide housing, mental health resources, and mentorship. It's just one of the ways Pellman is using her role in The Prom to help to make people's lives a bit brighter and more inclusive.

The Prom is available on Netflix now.