Bianca Del Rio interview: spreading holiday hate in Not Today Bianca
What’s the key ingredient in Bianca Del Rio’s ideal cup of holiday cheer? Hatred, of course.
The fan-favorite RuPaul’s Drag Race champion returns Thursday to the network that brought her into living rooms around the country for a two-part comedy special titled Not Today Bianca, which, according to the comedian, is a hybrid of fiction and reality as it documents her “sad and hilarious” life in Los Angeles.
Featuring a revolving door of guest actors — from The Mindy Project‘s Fortune Feimster to Michelle Visage, Charo, Tori Spelling, and RuPaul himself — Not Today Bianca both lampoons and celebrates fame-obsessed culture across several improvised scenarios, as Del Rio attempts to forge a career in Hollywood while discovering the true meaning of the holidays in the process.
Del Rio, who’s currently prepping additional North American dates for her ongoing Not Today Satan comedy tour, chatted with EW about her efforts to challenge the mainstream perception of drag culture, the struggle to be taken seriously as a comedian as opposed to just another drag queen, and a particularly juicy moment on the set of Not Today Bianca involving 3rd Rock from the Sun‘s Kristen Johnston.
Ahead of Not Today Bianca‘s Thursday, Dec. 15 premiere at 9 p.m. ET on Logo, read on for EW’s full interview with Del Rio, and check out an exclusive clip (featuring a very angry Charo) below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: To quote your own press release on this, these shows are “dramatizing your own sad and hilarious life” in Los Angeles – what’s been so sad and hilarious about your life there?
BIANCA DEL RIO: We’re playing it as Bianca’s life; it’s not necessarily my life as Roy. You don’t see me out of drag. We don’t even discuss the fact that I’m a drag queen. I’m just me. I think a lot of people assume once you do something on television your life is fabulous and amazing and you’re getting offers to do movies with Meryl Streep. That’s not the case. People’s perception of what my life would be [after winning Drag Race] is not really it… but it is quite funny that nothing seems to work well for me at all in Los Angeles, and everyone’s just telling me, “Well, that’s how things are in L.A.”
Yeah, there’s actually a quote from you that says, “I want to be a comedian who happens to be a drag queen.” Don’t get me wrong, you look fabulous, but the look is secondary to the wit.
I’ve had conversations with people before about drag in general; comedians are always quick to say, “Well, there are tons of drag comedians, like Dame Edna,” but none of them are gay, which is interesting. They were all straight men dressed up as women, and that was the joke. For me, drag has been packaging to get into people’s living rooms, because of Drag Race. I’m not afraid of doing things out of drag… This [special] was one of those packages where they said, “We’re not even going to mention that you’re a man.” I thought that was clever, and created more of a character as opposed to just me struggling to get into drag. No one wants to see that. No one wants to see these live feeds on Facebook of drag queens getting made up. It’s ridiculous. We just thought we wouldn’t mention it and we’d just roll with it… I think Michelle Visage calls me “sir” at one point, but I’ve said some horrible things to her, so it works out.
Why do you think it’s necessary to push the envelope in that way?
Everybody does drag for different reasons. The average person assumes that you’re a drag queen so you’re a nelly and you want to be a girl, which is not the case, and I think Drag Race has changed that for us… Some drag queens want to get into drag and be sexy and date boys… that ain’t me. There’s nothing sexual about the clown look I have. I don’t sit back and go, “Oh, this is it, you’re fierce” — no. I sit back and go, “No, I’m actually getting away with this for another day. It’s amazing.” If I didn’t wear makeup and hair, they’d say I’m a nasty fag; I wear it, and they say, “Oh it’s hysterical!” It’s packaging to get away with murder.
Obviously, a lot of people in the industry are down with your humor, because you got some amazing guest stars to appear with you on this special.
I was most impressed with anyone who was even interested or even knew who the f— I was. That was lovely. It’s also shocking how many people are Drag Race fans… they all came in and things were loosely outlined and they rolled with it, so some parts got bigger and some got smaller depending on the chemistry we had. Charo, for Christ’s sake! F—–g Charo! I was a child watching Love Boat and she would come on with that Spanish guitar and I was in awe. She looks exactly the same, which is so freaky. You know you’ve come full circle when you’re working with Charo.
The tiny bit of her audition scene that’s in the trailer is so funny!
It was so wild. In my mind, I’m still thinking she assumed she was auditioning for something real. I don’t know if she knew it was fake, but it was comedy gold. It was an afternoon of me cackling, and all reactions you see from me are real.
The stuff with Tori Spelling asking if you have a rich dad, too? How did you get her to make fun of herself like that?
What I’m doing most of the show is asking people how Hollywood works and how you become successful, because I’m surrounded by everyone who’s successful, but it doesn’t seem to be working for me. With her, it was about asking, how did you do this. She asks: “Do you have a rich daddy? Do you have a daddy who can put you in things?” My idea of Tori Spelling wasn’t what I experienced… she was so willing to make fun of herself, and we just went on a tangent and she was a hoot. I didn’t expect that… all that s–t she was making up, it was just fun.
Was there anything juicy that happened on set with any of the guest stars?
Kristen Johnston is a riot; we were filming her on the last day. She came in and she was very loud and boisterous and she was telling me she was going to chew me up in my scenes and that she knows how to ad-lib and she’s ready for me, so everybody in the makeup room was like, “Okay, she’s a wild one.” She told me, “I’m going to kill you, Bianca. You think this is your show? It’s going to be all about me!” I looked over at her and I said, “Listen, I’m surprised you even knew how to get to set because it’s been a while since anybody called you to ask,” and she looked at me and said, ‘That hurt.” Then we hit it off.
Just thinking about saying that to her makes me sweat. Where do you get the confidence to say something like that?
It’s hate. Hate is always key. I’ve learned, within these past few years of getting to meet some amazing people, despite the fact that she’s a brilliant actress and an Emmy Award winner and a genius, everyone just wants to be treated normally, and the more normal you are with them, the easier it is. Even to sit back with RuPaul and make jokes about how horrible Lady Bunny is… I don’t think of it as them being huge stars and I can’t say that — I just say it. What’s the worst that can happen? Usually, they find that refreshing and enjoy it more than you’d think. And definitely with Ru, that’s the main thing. As long as Ru is cackling, you’re good.
RuPaul actually appears in Not Today Bianca, which must feel amazing. You don’t see Tyra Banks doing photo shoots with the winners of Top Model.
Ru’s an executive producer! Ru’s been beyond kind to me. A lot of people often ask about my relationship with Ru, and it’s not like we go have lunch and eat bonbons. That’s never been our world. Since Drag Race, he’s been completely supportive. I had a movie that came out earlier this year and he did a cameo in that… He’s been really supportive, but also we love pop culture, we both like to talk about how horrible Lady Bunny is because we both have a relationship with Lady Bunny, but Ru is very smart and very funny and the Drag Race experience was lovely for me and it was refreshing to see that side of him… truly, with him, it’s all about laughter. As long as you make him laugh — the more rotten, the more demented, the more hateful — he cackles endlessly.