Drag stars BenDeLaCreme, Jinkx Monsoon crash Kristen Stewart's Happiest Season
EW reveals the RuPaul's Drag Race icons' surprise roles in Clea DuVall's holiday rom-com.
EW can exclusively reveal that BenDeLaCreme and Drag Race season 5 winner Jinkx Monsoon will appear in the Clea DuVall-directed, Kristen Stewart-starring queer holiday rom-com Happiest Season when the film premieres on Hulu later this month. And the whole thing came together for the duo — who've collaborated on several Christmas stage shows in recent years — like a jolly Christmas miracle.
"The first time I met Clea was actually backstage at our Christmas show two years ago. She came to see the show!" DeLa says, adding that the trio kept in touch over the months that followed. DuVall — who wrote and directed Happiest Season with her Veep costar Mary Holland — later approached the queens with roles in the feature she created specifically for them. "She approached it having seen how Jinkx and I handled Christmas on stage, and wanted to incorporate that, which was an honor!"
In essence, DuVall cast the queens to do what they do best: Riff on a microphone at a gay bar, switching effortlessly between singing holiday tunes, throwing jazz hands, and playfully roasting the audience's metaphorical chestnuts over an open (shady) fire.
The moment comes a little over halfway through the movie, when Stewart's character, Abby, a Pittsburgh lesbian forced to hide her identity from her closeted girlfriend's (Mackenzie Davis) family (Mary Steenburgen, Victor Garber, Alison Brie, and Holland) during the couple's last-minute journey home for the holidays, crashes the local dive to down a shot of liquid therapy. DeLa says she knew the queens were there to play off of Abby's dejected state, adding a burst of holiday flair to perk up her Yuletide blues as they eventually make their way over to the character's table and prod her to join in belting the saccharine carols.
"Jinkx and I met a couple of days prior [to filming] and started playing with it and tossing some ideas around. We wanted to give Clea a bunch of options. We thought she’d just tell us what she didn't like and to pull back. And, then, she didn’t!" DeLa says with a laugh, recalling shooting the scene on-location at a real Pittsburgh bar on the last day of overall production. "So, we did every single idea we thought of in rehearsal. Kristen and Aubrey Plaza are in this serious scene, and Clea had soft-toned conversations to direct them, then she’d come to us on her way back to her director’s station and be like, 'You guys are doing great! Keep doing that! I can’t believe how many things you’re bringing to this!' We thought, 'Either she loves it or we’re beyond hope.' It was one of the two!"
DeLa remembers the set as one teeming with excitement over the fact that DuVall (an openly gay actress and filmmaker) had assembled such a robust, unabashedly queer group of collaborators to craft a lesbian-centered, major-studio-backed, holiday-themed romantic comedy to fruition for the first time in history.
She also sensed a dutiful feeling of "importance" emanating from Stewart, the "very sweet and soft-spoken" star she got to know while they cozied up and chatted about their lives with Jinkx and Plaza in the cast's dressing room just above the stage.
"We were all working to figure out how we reclaim a sense of warmth and joy at the holidays, which is every straight person’s birthright, but queer people have a little bit of a harder time accessing," says DeLa, praising DuVall's commitment to telling an authentic story about the lesbian experience through Abby and Harper's quest to slowly nudge the latter to accept her identity during the most jovial time of the year. "That common mission statement was so clear, so that tone in the room, that feeling, you can’t fake that. There’s a sense of the importance for everyone involved."
Also important to DeLa? DuVall — who even appeared as a guest judge on an episode of RuPaul's Drag Race in 2019 — and her clear appreciation for the art of drag, beyond using it as a prop for cheap comedy.
"There’s a tendency to cut and paste drag queens and use them interchangeably for drag queen roles. Like there's this stamped-out version of a drag queen role that anybody could play [in Hollywood]," DeLa observes. "When you get to work with a director who sees and values the kind of individuality of any performer, it changes the way it feels to be on that set and to give that performance. It allows you to give a lot more specific flavor when, as drag queens, we’re often just asked to give drag flavor."
DeLa and Jinkx aren't stopping their holiday domination here. The pair is set to carry the sentiment of making Christmas gay again one step further when they headline their joint movie The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Special in the coming weeks, which features chainsaws, booze, and other winter staples (like DeLa portraying Mother Mary in a playful nod to her Drag Race past.) And nothing — not even the reason for the season — can get in their way.
"I’m fresh as a newborn babe!" DeLa promises. A word to seasonal religious icons everywhere: hold on to your halos — and your wigs. BenDeLaChristmas is coming.
Happiest Season begins streaming Nov. 25 on Hulu. See EW's exclusive photos of Jinkx Monsoon and BenDeLaCreme in the film above, and read our full preview here.
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