Walnut Hills Grad Jo Ellen Pellman's 'The Prom' Released Today

Dec 11, 2020

Look who's going to The Prom with Jo Ellen Pellman: Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key and late-night talk host James Corden.

Jo Ellen Pellman attended Walnut Hills High School and the University of Michigan.
Credit Ambe J.

The 2014 Walnut Hills High School graduate plays Emma, an Indiana high school senior who was banned from taking her girlfriend to the prom, in the Netflix version of the Tony Award-nominated Broadway musical.  The Prom will be released today.

Streep, Kidman, Corden and Andrew Rannells play self-obsessed Broadway stars who try to repair their careers by invading a tiny conservative Indiana town to support Emma.

Director Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story, Nip/Tuck) began filming last December.  When announcing Pellman's casting a year ago, Deadline called her an "up-and-coming actress" who was found by Murphy and Netflix "after a nationwide search."

Angie (Nicole Kidman) visits Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman) in her Indiana bedroom.
Credit Melinda Sue Gordon / Netflix

Netflix calls her a "newcomer" in its description of the movie plot: 

Dee Dee Allen (three-time Academy Award winner Meryl Streep) and Barry Glickman (Tony Award winner James Corden) are New York City stage stars with a crisis on their hands: their expensive new Broadway show is a major flop that has suddenly flatlined their careers.

Meanwhile, in small-town Indiana, high school student Emma Nolan (newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman) is experiencing a very different kind of heartbreak: despite the support of the high school principal (Keegan-Michael Key), the head of the PTA (Kerry Washington) has banned her from attending the prom with her girlfriend, Alyssa (Ariana DeBose).

When Dee Dee and Barry decide that Emma's predicament is the perfect cause to help resurrect their public images, they hit the road with Angie (Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman) and Trent (Andrew Rannells), another pair of cynical actors looking for a professional lift. But when their self-absorbed celebrity activism unexpectedly backfires, the foursome find their own lives upended as they rally to give Emma a night where she can truly celebrate who she is.

Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman) and Alyssa (Ariana DuBose) at the school dance.
Credit Melinda Sue Gordon / Netflix

Tracey Ullman, Mary Kay Place and Kevin Chamberlin also appear in the film, according to the Internet Movie Database.

As I wrote a year ago, The Prom is a huge break for Pellman, who played Bob Cratchit's daughter for four years in the Playhouse in the Park production of A Christmas Carol while attending Monfort Heights Elementary School and White Oak Middle School.  She also has participated in the Cincinnati Young People's Theatre, Cincinnati's Childrens Theatre, the 2012 World Choir Games here and University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music programs for young performers.

As Playbill said, "the Cincinnati native has been honing her musical theatre chops since she was a kid."

Pellman's IMDB page lists only four other credits: Netflix's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; HBO's The Deuce; Comedy Central's  Alternatino with Arturo Castro; and the web series The University. She made her TV debut last summer in the Comedy Central show, according to her Joellenpellman website.

Pellman earned a bachelor's degree in musical theater and a minor in creative writing from the University of Michigan.  She also studied Shakespeare at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.