There’s a reason “for the Straight Guy” was dropped from the title of Netflix’s Queer Eye revival; as audiences saw in season 1, the Fab 5 — Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, and Jonathan Van Ness — also gave a “make-better” to a gay man, AJ.
Season 2, premiering June 15, kicks off with the series’ first female subject, Tammye, a school teacher and cancer survivor who’s in the midst of planning her church’s homecoming. Without saying anything more, be warned: The episode delivers an emotional gut-punch.
“The coming home service in African-American culture is big. I love going to church. I have a great relationship with Christ. I have a great relationship with the church. And so, for me, I was excited,” Brown explains. “I know what this means to the black community. I know how this went back when slaves were freed; I know all the history behind this. So to have this moment for me was like, ‘Yes! The world is going to see the love, and how African-Americans congregate and where they find their strength in their family and how they support their community through the homecoming service.'”
The sentiment is shared by interior design expert Berk, who expressed his strained relationship with religion in season 1 with Bobby Camp. While that conversation was enlightening, Berk still hadn’t come to terms with his feelings.
“That episode was very, very hard for me honestly. I almost refused to do it,” he admits. “One of the things I said to producers and creators when I first got cast, was, ‘I’ll pretty much do anything, just never ask me to go into a church.’ I grew up very religious. Religion was my entire life. And then when I came out, religion completely turned their back on me. And I’ve never really gotten over that.”
France reveals he and Brown had a “really heated” conversation with Berk one day during filming, trying to help him see that it religion as a whole didn’t reject him, but rather, as Brown says, “people turned their back on you.”
Tan continues: “There are times even we need to educate each other. … It’s not just the audience we like to impact, it’s each other.”
Without spoiling the episode, Berk doesn’t hesitate in praising Tammye for being “so loving and accepting and open.”
“She gave each of us a journal, and she wrote us a beautiful little note,” Porowski, who has a visibly moving response to Tammye, shares. “To have somebody who really didn’t know us very well…and to speak to and treat all of us like we were her sons, I have a lot of respect.”
Respect was priority No. 1 when the Fab 5 meet Skyler (episode 5), a trans man who weeks earlier had a life- and body-altering surgery.
“One of my closest friends is a trans man who is incredible. And a lot of my clients are trans women. So I am really hoping that we can do right by our trans brothers and sisters,” Van Ness says. “[Skyler] is going through so much, so [it was important to be] gentle and respectful and not to be a queenie know-it-all dum-dum when you’re trying to be a loving person.”
Of the series’ first 16 episodes, it’s the one France, a Muslim who lives in Salt Lake City with his husband, says he is most proud of. “I wasn’t as informed for Skyler. … I think that LGBTQ people are lumped into a group, and many people assume that I’m in the struggle with everybody else in my group, but I really don’t,” the 35-year-old Brit explains. “I lived a very, very Middle-Eastern life until I was in my early 20s. We were very sheltered. … Watching that episode, I felt like we did it respectfully and appropriately where we could ask the questions that probably so many people have wanted to, or those questions that have gone unanswered.”
Brown, who has been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ education and rights, hopes audiences take away something very specific. “I think as a culture, people need to get away from the bathroom stuff and realize that these are just human beings trying to live their lives, and it’s something that we all take for granted,” he explains. “Hearing Skyler, the first time I got to talk to him, say, ‘I tried to get my license several times.’ Think about if you were just trying to go to the airport, and you could not get on [the plane] because your license said something different. It’s just about people living a comfortable, protected, respected life.”
Watch the video above for more on season 2, which premieres June 15 on Netflix.