Last week, EW was on the scene for the reunion taping of RuPaul’s Drag Race: Reunited, which will air this evening at 9 p.m. on Logo. (Of course, you’ll also be able to stream coverage of the show’s big coronation party in NYC — there will be interviews with all this season’s queens — on LogoTV.com, from 8 to 10:15 p.m. ET tonight, too.)
Based on what happened at last week’s taping, the episode that airs tonight should be a doozy of an hour that will delve into the drama around Willam’s surprising early exit from the season; award one queen the Miss Congeniality award (you might be able to guess who, but I’m not telling you…); and, of course, finally crown Chad Michaels, Sharon Needles, or Phi Phi O’Hara as America’s Next Drag Superstar.
No one knows who will take home the glory except for one person: host and show namesake RuPaul. Which is why we here at EW enlisted the drag legend for a quick chat last Friday afternoon to discuss all things about tonight’s Reunited special and season 4.
Read on for Ru’s thoughts on the controversial decision to tape three endings to tonight’s episode; why season 4 was stands out from the previous three; the appeal of fallen queen Latrice Royale; what’s going on with All Stars: RuPaul’s Drag Race; and much, much more.
I was at the reunion, which was oodles of fun. But walk me through your decision to tape it the way you did. Why shoot the three endings?
I was so p—ed off that people had leaked it last year. I thought, how awful that they wouldn’t consider everyone else’s enjoyment, but you have to understand that the human ego will do whatever it takes to get attention because it needs to know that it exists. So, people leaked that Raja was the winner last year, without thinking about other people’s enjoyment. I was so mad, so one morning, I woke up and between the time of getting out of bed and still kind of in a dream, it occurred to me that if we shot three endings? Then no one would know. Of course, we had to do it in front of a live audience because the show has grown so much and there’s so much excitement. Why not turn it into a super-huge event? And you know, the taping was like the Academy Awards for drag. It was!
The staging was beautiful, everyone looked great. You elevated it to the next level. Was that the goal?
We had to because this show was so near and dear to so many people’s hearts, and we’re really changing the level that people come to expect from drag. During the Bush era, drag really had been the step child of the gay right’s movement, even though we were the ones who got things rocking at Stonewall. So, I love drag, I love the art of drag, I love people who have the chutzpah to really get down and do drag because it takes a lot of balls to do drag and it takes a lot of courage for someone to get out there and say, “You know what? I know what society expects of me, but you know what? F— you, I’m going to do it anyway.”
Were you happy with the way the reunion turned out? Did it come off as you had envisioned it?
Oh my God, it was so much more. I had so much fun doing it. It was so exciting. I was actually high from it the whole next day. The whole next day! And strangely, it came off without a hitch. We started a little bit late, but it went without a hitch. It was kind of scary. I had to ask them, “Are you guys sure you put film in the camera?” Because everything went so smoothly.
Did you have a favorite moment from the reunion?
Yes, my favorite part of the night was when I came out and I said to the audience, “We have Drag Race royalty here. Hey Pork Chop!” [Laughs.]
That was indeed a moment. Why did you love that so much?
We have changed the star system. We have created a new star system, where Pork Chop — who, in the history of our show, was the first queen eliminated — is sitting front row, center, and is acknowledged for the grand dame legend that she is. In the other star system of Hollywood, you know, you’re here today and gone tomorrow. But not so with our show, and we’re creating a while new vernacular and a whole new star system.
Well, it’s almost like you’ve created a Drag Race family — which is so cool, in my opinion.
It is cool, especially in what’s thought of as a disenfranchised subculture of a subculture.
Do you ever think about how insanely buzzy this show is compared to other shows that are maybe 10 or 15 times bigger, in terms of audience?
You know, I didn’t think it would get to this point. I knew that there were people who absolutely loved drag and drag is their life, and I knew that there were people who understood drag. There are so many other layers to it, just by the nature of the beast. But I didn’t know it would become such a cult hit, and sometimes it is disappointing because, yeah, there are shows that get 15 million viewers and our biggest audience is sometimes 1.5 million, maybe. But honestly, I’d rather have that 1.5 million of devoted fans, who live and breathe this show, than the other. I’m happy at Logo. They let us do so much. They give us free reign, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.
When you think about season 4, compared to the three that came before it, how does it fit in — or differ — from those?
I think the characters are stronger. I think it’s more character-driven. Before, we had a lot of pretty, pretty girls. You know, there were some pretty girls this season, but that wasn’t the main focus. The main focus was difference and character, and that’s why I think people are so passionate about this season. The bottom line is that people want to see themselves, they wanna see passion, and they wanna see characters. I think that’s why this is our biggest season ever.
I think what really describes them, each, is perseverance. And that’s really what our show is about. Our show, at its core, is about the tenacity of the human spirit, and all three of them exemplify that to the umpteenth degree. I think, honestly, that’s why people are so passionate about the show. These girls represent the courage that they feel they have, or the courage that lies in potential in every human being. In terms of representing our show, all three are strong characters, they have a strong story is easy to root for, and that’s why people love them so much. Whichever one wins the crown will be a great representative.
Let’s talk about Latrice Royale real quick. But what is her appeal?
She is that earth mother. She is that one who is not catty and who you can trust. She is very trustworthy. How honest she was about her own story and how forthcoming she was with her story, it made everyone feel very comfortable. She’s a genuine person and so wise. I think that is why people love her so much. Plus, she’s an amazing performer. Amazing!
How much did fan lobbying have to do with the decision for this year’s crown? Did you really let fans influence you?
Well, you know, it does influence to a certain degree, but obviously, ultimately, the decision is mine. [Laughs.]
So that decision — let’s talk about it. It’s Friday afternoon right now, the Friday before the Monday airing of the reunion finale. Have you made it yet?
Yeah, I’ve made it. It’s made.
On Monday, where will you be when the episode is airing?
I have threatened to go to some of the clubs here in Los Angeles. Well, no, the club owners don’t know yet, but I may, I may go to the Eagle and then go to Micky’s. And then probably MJs, too. One of the other Drag Race producers suggested that we do a drive-by at all these clubs.
So All Stars: RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’m obsessed with it. What can you say about it at this person?
Well, I know fans are going to be excited about it either way. I can’t tell you much about All Stars right now, but I tell you that it’s going to be the favorites, it’s going to be the favorites from all seasons. A girl for all seasons! A drag for all seasons! We basically wait a year for each series, so this’ll be in the interim. Drag U and then All Stars and then Drag Race season 5.
With All Stars, regular Drag Race, and Drag U, you’re taking over Logo. Will there be a day where something from the Drag Race universe is on Logo every week?
[Laughs.] You know, we should have our own sub-channel called The Drag Channel. Sure, why not!
Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky