'Dear Evan Hansen' actress Jessica Phillips, mother of two, comes out as queer at 50
Broadway actress Jessica Phillips has come out as queer at the age of 50, admitting she is in a relationship with a woman she met years ago. After spending much of her life identifying as a straight, cisgender woman, the 'Dear Evan Hansen' star addressed her sexuality for the first time in an interview with People.
"It wasn't about changing identities, rather expanding my identity," the mother-of-two said of coming out as queer to the magazine. The pandemic was the catalyst for Phillips' rediscovery. She first remained at home with her family after the production of 'Dear Evan Hanson' came to a halt in March 2020.
The actress was joined by her then-husband, fellow Broadway actor Tad Wilson, and her boys, Jonah and Malcolm, from her first marriage to Nicholas Rohlfing, who played Evan's mother, Heidi Hansen, in the musical. However, after temporarily migrating to Los Angeles for television work, she found herself in complete seclusion. She learnt more about herself and knew she was on the edge of a second divorce during that time alone.
"That period of time [in L.A.] really was a beautiful experience for me and also really painful and scary and sad because, as you know, when we open ourselves to change and newness, there's loss attached to that, and there was a lot of loss for me," Phillips explained.
Phillips divorced Wilson after four years of marriage when she returned from Los Angeles in April 2021. She had married Wilson in 2017 in the same year she met her current partner, theatrical publicist Chelsea Nachman. This was after she had split from her first husband, Rohlfing, in 2011. Phillips recalls having a "special connection" with Nachman from the beginning, despite the fact that their relationship took "several years of navigating." She posted a selfie of herself with Nachman on Instagram in November, in honour of her 33rd birthday, after they had celebrated her 50th birthday together.
"It was all of the emotions," Phillips said of their relationship becoming public on social media. "It was super scary and super exhilarating. The celebratory part of it was beautiful to me. I was also aware of how surprised people might be or how it might be shocking news to some people."
Nachman has shared a lot of photos of them together over the last three months, including a poignant one of them kissing on Christmas. Phillips has the backing of both of her adult sons, ages 18 and 21, after speaking with each of them separately. Despite her initial "nervousness" about coming out to them, they were "100% on board" and "glad" for her. While she hasn't told many other people, she felt it was vital for her to be able to speak openly about her sexuality.