Interview: Boulet Brothers Bringing Authentic Queer Stories (with Scares) on 'Dragula: Resurrection'

by Robert Nesti

EDGE National Arts & Entertainment Editor

Wednesday October 21, 2020

Interview: Boulet Brothers Bringing Authentic Queer Stories (with Scares) on 'Dragula: Resurrection'

The Boulet Brothers — Dracmorda and Swanthula — have carved themselves a unique niche in the drag performance universe with "Dragula," their hit reality competition series whose three seasons can be viewed on Netflix. With the tenants of Drag, Filth, Horror and Glamour, they mix traditional horror memes with drag in their aesthetic in competitions that brought the contestants to their LA home for horror-based and sometimes cringe-worthy competitions.

This year, though, the pandemic led them to think outside of the box. Instead of doing an entire season, they have put together a Halloween-inspired, two-hour special, "The Boulet Brothers' Dragula: Resurrection," where they bring back contestants from the show's three seasons to win a cash prize ($20,000) and the opportunity to be part of Season Four.

"The Boulet Brothers' Dragula Resurrection" can be streamed starting today on Shudder. Click for more information.

The show brings back contestants from "Dragula's" first three seasons: Frankie Doom and Loris from Season One; Kendra Onixxx, Dahli and Victoria Elizabeth Black from Season Two; and Priscilla Chambers and Saint from Season Three. This diverse group represents the breadth of the drag horror universe.


The Boulet Brothers

The new format also allows the Brothers to explore their contestants with more depth, offering backstories that touch upon such issues as transitioning and BLM in ways that other drag competition shows rarely attempt. They also showcase the talents of its seven participants, showing the processes by which they create their imaginative looks for the three challenges, which has them as witches, ghosts and vampires.

The Brothers themselves are on hand with short films that introduce the challenges that look like found footage out of some old, Universal horror film. And the competitors themselves show their vast knowledge of the horror genre with looks that include swamp witches, traditional 'Trick or Treat' ghosts, and vampires out of "Mad Max." The resulting special, which can be viewed today on the streaming service Shudder, makes for an entertaining and satisfying two hours — presently relevant queer stories in a richly imaginative format.

EDGE spoke to the Boulet Brothers, Dracmorda and Swanthula, about the show:


Kendra Onixxx

EDGE: You have said that this special is inspired by the "extraordinary times" we are living through? Can you elaborate?

Dracmorda: We are living in a pandemic which has changed society drastically. It also really opened up a unique opportunity for things like BLM to happen and to grow in power. We are usually distracted in our daily lives that even super-liberal people that are anti-racist are getting comfortable with the way things are. I feel that this pandemic has allowed people not to be distracted and focus on something really important. That is one good thing to come out of the pandemic. With this special we wanted it to show the times that we are living in. We wanted to feature our Black performers that are going through these struggling times, our trans performers — just show people an authentically queer class of people in an unapologetic way.

EDGE: How would you describe what you call the four tenants of the show — Drag, Filth, Horror, and Glamour?

Swanthula: That is just the mantra of the show. It has been that since day one. Those are the parts of society we want to celebrate.


Dahli

EDGE: Throughout the show you hit upon such pertinent issues as trans representation and BLM. Did you intend on making the show so substantial?

Dracmorda: We originally came up with the concept of the special that we could show our competitors in a way that people have never seen them before. Because we feel that in our previous shows we were only were able to show a little slice of their personalities and stories. And we feel that our competitors are such stars and some of them went home early and you didn't get to see who they were. So it was an intentional decision for us to do a show that showed more about them and shows how amazing how funny and amazing and engaging they are. And what interesting lives they lead. That was the plan from the onset.

EDGE: With Priscilla Chambers' story, you touch upon trans issues. Was that intentional?

Swanthula: Only in the sense in that is what the performer's message was. We wanted to give them the platform to tell their stories. It was our job to give them the stage and whatever story they wanted to tell. And this gave them a chance to be really relevant, and it naturally came to happen.


Priscilla Chambers

EDGE: One of the memes of the show is that some of the contestants were their own worst enemies in the past. Were you trying to get the message across that personal empowerment was crucial to the show's message?

Dracmorda: I think that is a natural byproduct of encouraging our contestants. When we invite these monsters to come in to live in our house for a couple of months for a normal season, I think it is time for them to reflect upon themselves as artists and compare themselves with each other. We like to give support in our critique. We don't get into the negative. We aren't doing this for ratings or money. We generally want to see them grow as artists. There may be a natural breakdown of that their esteem. But we hope for them to discover more powerful versions of themselves. They are transformed and empowered. Almost all of them would say that this has been such a positive experience and that they have grown so much as artists. I think we created the little incubator for that, and once inside they grow and change and are inspired. It is a natural by-product of being on the show.


Saint

EDGE: One of the most moving moments came when Saint opened up about her being part of the Black Lives Matters movement. Did that surprise you when it happened?

Swanthula: It did because there is a standard list of questions that we ask each person. You never know what you are going to bet. And I feel that some of the competitors were being more cautious. And we are looking for someone who is going to come onto Season Four and be open and live out loud and have something important to say. Social media is so vicious today and these contestants have been through it and are afraid that they would come off as a 'villain.' We sense that in some of them, and felt that almost automatically disqualified them from winning. Being careful is not what we are looking for. We want someone strong who isn't afraid and has something important to say.

So when Saint opened up like that it was so unexpected. I remember saying, do you have something else you want to talk about? Then she opened up and we were honestly distracted because we were so moved. Some on the crew was crying. I got up and hugged her. There is this moment that we filmed but didn't post because I wasn't in drag and we don't show ourselves not in drag. But where I was trying to console her and thanking her for sharing her story. I think we forgot we were filming for a minute.


Victoria Elizabeth Black

EDGE: You introduce each challenge with great clips of yourselves that look like some found footage from an old Universal horror movie from the 1930s. Were you inspired in these by anything in particular?

Dracmorda: We are lovers of Halloween and horror, so when we were crafting this special, we decided that each of the challenges would be inspired by classic monster archetypes: vampires, witches, ghosts. We have our own cache of inspirations we wanted to bring to the special. We also through the special used this idea of creating this 'death tape.' We were going to harvest from the mini-movies we were creating to ultimately 'kill' them. Kind of like 'The Ring' style.

EDGE: Is it hard to balance the camp elements with the more serious ones?

Swanthula: I don't think so. The camp and comedic elements are not our style. That is not what inspires us. We do have love for a little bit of camp gore — movies like 'Death Becomes Her' and 'Liar of the White Worm,' but it is pretty easy to ignore it.


Frankie Doom

EDGE: This time you didn't bring the contestants to your house, but went to theirs. What was traveling around the country filming during the pandemic like?

Dracmorda: Really dangerous and scary. We have a small crew so only five of us — the two of us included. It was brutal. It was long and it was during the pandemic, so we were going to a lot of places where people weren't taking the pandemic very seriously. So we were putting ourselves in a lot of danger. We protected ourselves — we walked around in these space suits with visors and masks. And we were filming in kind-of dangerous locations in different cities, so that added another layer of danger to it.

EDGE: Was it difficult to pare the contestants down to seven?

Swanthula: Like Drac said, we are fans of all of our competitors and we now have some 30 of them. We knew that we wanted to represent all three seasons. We knew that we wanted to put people on there that had something to say, and to be aficionados of horror. And to represent the "Dragula" tenants of Drag, Filth, Horror and Glamour. Given those parameters, we had a huge board -- like you see in the opening — where we had all the pics onboard and went from there.

EDGE: The show is as much about the process of putting these looks together. Was that to show the depth of creativity your participants have?

Dracmorda: Absolutely. I mean it was something that fans cried out for. They wanted to see the artists and their processes. I think it shows a lot when you see what inspires people and how they bring their looks to fruition. I think drag is unappreciated as an art form because it involves so many different crafts -- sewing, performance, looks. All of these things take an artist to do that. Resurrection is a showcase of seven artists, that's how it looks for us.


Loris

EDGE: Nor do you do employ the 'villain' narrative so ubiquitous on reality competitions. Instead, you just let the contestants tell their stories in ways that make them very real. Was that your intention?

Swanthula: It is how we wanted to present them. We know a lot of these people - we hire them, we tour with them, we stay in touch. We like these people. We really wish we could have shown more of them. Loris is a very divisive character, for good or bad; but I find her to be fascinating television. I know that a lot of people find her cringy, but a lot of people love her. I love that duplicitous nature of her character.

EDGE: What are the plans for Season Four?

Dracmorda: Casting will start on Halloween night. It will be cast very quickly, so I hope people are ready to go. We have been teasing it for a while, so they have had plenty of time to get their shit together.

EDGE: You have been doing a Halloween ball in Los Angeles since 2001, but it was canceled this year. Disappointed?

Dracmorda: Unfortunately, we can't do it this year, but hopefully, we can next year. Because of the pandemic, live events are out. This is our Halloween special. This is our big Halloween thing this year. Usually we are traveling around the country, celebrate the event, work with our monsters and meet our fans. But this special is our Halloween gift this year.

"The Boulet Brothers' Dragula Resurrection" can be streamed starting today on Shudder. Click for more information.

Watch the trailer:


Robert Nesti can be reached at [email protected].

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