Since his last NFL outing back in 2019, Marshawn Lynch has made several appearances on the small screen.
Now he’s getting rave reviews for his first major movie, and there’s a strong LGBTQ family connection that led him to take the role.
“Bottoms” is a high school comedy with two queer central characters — students PJ and Josie — who decide the best route to losing their virginities before graduation is to start up a fight club that will appeal to cheerleaders.
Lynch plays teacher Mr G, who accepts the students’ request to oversee the club. It’s an unlikely casting choice but the man best known for “Beast Mode” ends up stealing many of his scenes, turning in a supporting performance the New York Times described as “delicious.”
According to the film’s director Emma Seligman, it was Orion Pictures studio head Alana Mayo who suggested casting Lynch after seeing him in an episode of impro TV comedy “Murderville” early last year.
They sent him the script, not entirely expecting him to go for it. So what led him to say yes?
During his football career, the five-time Pro Bowl selection helped the Seattle Seahawks to victory at Super Bowl XLVIII and also played for the Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders.
Lynch grew up in Oakland and when they were both teenagers, his younger sister Marreesha came out to him. It was a moment that was on his mind when Seligman first spoke to him.
In an interview recorded before the current actors’ strike, Lynch said: “I told her this was a good opportunity for me because when I was at high school, my sister came out as being a lesbian, or gay.
“I did not handle it right, as a 16-year-old boy. I didn’t handle it the way that I feel I probably should have.
“So I told her it was giving me an opportunity to correct my wrongs, and to rewrite one of my mistakes.”
Marreesha Sapp-Lynch confirmed the account in an interview with PEOPLE.
Reflecting on her brother’s reaction to her coming out back in the early 2000s, she said: “Marshawn had a lot of questions and was thinking it was his fault: ‘What did I do?’”
However, she went on to explain how Lynch had soon become one of her strongest allies, with this aspect of their bond continuing into adulthood. He walked Marreesha down the aisle in 2021 when she married her wife.
After further conversations with Seligman and his sister, Lynch signed up to play Mr G. It’s proved to be one of his best career decisions, and it’s also helping to break down stereotypes.
As with most high school movies, football and the hypermasculine culture that surrounds it is a central theme in “Bottoms”.
On Lynch’s casting and how Mr G advises the queer girls, Seligman adds to PEOPLE: “To have a legendary football player like him playing this character that’s getting to know this subsection of this town, and see them as real people with valid desires and hormones and feelings — that’s pretty cool that Marshawn is representing that kind of straight, male character.”
It seems a world away from Lynch’s Seahawks days when he would rarely engage with the media, happy to just let his football do the talking.
Now he’s opening up LGBTQ conversations for new audiences, something that’s not lost on Seligman as the buzz grows around “Bottoms”.
“It is wild that it might be seen by so many more people who wouldn’t have otherwise seen it.”