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Exclusive | The Boulet Brothers on why Dragula showcases ‘drag in its purest form’

Letting their freak flags fly, Dracmorda and Swanthula continue to set the ghoul-d standard of drag.

By Thomas Stichbury

Scaring really is caring as The Boulet Brothers return with their spook-tastic spin-off show, Dragula: Resurrection.

Dracmorda and Swanthula didn’t let a pesky little thing like a pandemic stop them from making their two-hour Halloween special.

Part-horror film, part-documentary, part-reality competition, ‘Resurrection’ sees fan favourites from all three seasons of Dragula return to compete against one another: Frankie Doom, Loris, Kendra Onixx, Dahli, Victoria Elizabeth Black, Saint (formerly St Lucia) and Priscilla Chambers.

On top of pocketing a $20,000 cash prize, the winner will be “resurrected” and compete on the upcoming fourth season of Dragula for the chance, once again, to be crowned supermonster.

In an exclusive catch-up with Attitude, gruesome twosome Dracmorda and Swanthula reflect on the importance of representing all types of drag, why there is unlikely to be a crossover episode with RuPaul’s Drag Race and their own brushes with death. Grim reading, indeed…

Tell us more about Dragula: Resurrection, which we are beyond excited about at Attitude Towers…

D: Certainly! This project holds a special place in our hearts because it presents drag in a way that audiences haven’t seen before – it’s very personal, and goes “behind the drag” to see who these characters are as real people under the monster makeup we’re used to seeing them in. It shows that these performers are real, queer people who live very interesting lives and who are dealing with struggles that are unique to queer artists dealing with these strange times. We feel it’s more important than ever right now to tell authentic, queer stories in an unapologetic fashion – particularly black queer stories – and that’s exactly what we’re doing with ‘Resurrection’.

In what ways did the coronavirus affect filming? Did it push you creatively, and make you think even more outside of the box?

S: I’m probably saying more than I should here, but it impacted things in a major way. Season [four] should be filmed already, [but] the entire production and crew had been delayed for months due to the pandemic. That being said, this idea for a spin-off was floating on the wall in the production office and it had been there for a while. It always seemed far-fetched to do, but the more we started talking about it, the more excited we all got about it. Fast forward a month, and we found ourselves in a production van driving all over the country during a pandemic making it happen. It’s been an insane whirlwind – an actual whirlwind, in fact, because we actually got caught in, and filmed in, two hurricanes during production!

Talking of that chaos-causing bitch, Miss Rona, how did you cope during lockdown? Take up any new hobbies?

S: Well, we learned how to drive a giant production van and operate a lot of lighting equipment that we had no idea how to use at first.

Like a more twisted version of Thelma & Louise, Resurrection sees you both hit the road. What was the most memorable moment of your trip?

D: We had a fight in the van over whether we were going to film in New Orleans or not as we were literally two hours outside of the city and the locals were fleeing in the other direction because there were two hurricanes coming. There were giant highway signs saying: “TURN AROUND DON’T DROWN”. Needless to say, we drove straight into it and, obviously, lived to tell the tale. I guess I was right.

For those reared on RuPaul’s Drag Race, can you expand on the different types of drag you shine a proverbial light on in the show?

S: I think the kind of drag you see on our show is drag in its purest form – it’s political, it’s offensive, it’s definitely not family friendly and it’s unapologetically queer. There are trans people, lesbians, non-binary people, it’s drag for the whole community, which is how we feel drag has always been. It also deals with issues that queer people actually face in a way that’s not made safe for TV, issues of poverty, addiction, homelessness. These are real things that some queer artists have to deal with. 

Dragula pushes the boundaries when it comes to representation; we’ve had drag kings, non-binary people and trans performers. How important is that visibility to you, and will that continue in season four?

D: It’s super important. Drag is not just for cis white men and it never has been. Anyone can do drag. Drag is an art form. That being said, while we want to feature as much diversity on season four as possible, we don’t want to put people on the show just because they check off a certain minority category. If 12 amazing drag kings audition and are good TV and pass the requirements, then maybe it will be all drag kings this season. If none of them are a fit, maybe there will be none. We’ll have to see once we open casting. We’re never going to just do something because it appeases people who complain online. This is our vision, and we know the message that we are putting out there is a message of inclusion, and we don’t need either extreme’s approval.

You didn’t come up in the traditional drag world. Where did you master your craft, and what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned/piece of advice you’ve been given?

D: You are correct, we did not come up in a traditional drag scene at all. We performed in rock and roll clubs and sex dungeons and punk/goth clubs. We mastered our craft by crafting, producing and starring in theatrical, pansexual nightlife events of our own design. We created our own theatrical fantasy worlds and built them around ourselves… through hard work and trial and error. It was an expensive and exhausting way to learn.

S: Some of the most valuable pieces of advice we’ve been given is to not assume that you know who people are, or why they do the things they do, and to be gentle with people and forgive them. Oh, and also that you can learn to dislike someone’s behaviour without having to dislike them personally. Advice generally sounds dumb until years later when it finally clicks in your own brain, and by that time, you’ve already figured it out for yourself.

The show is famous for its exterminations (the needles still make us squeamish). Why are they integral to the format?

D: On the surface, it’s just entertaining to watch drag artists do this crazy s*** in drag, but the deeper message is about facing your fears. As performers – and as people, in general – we all have a tendency to get comfortable in our bubbles and not push ourselves. When you’re thrown into the pit of Dragula you absolutely have to go outside of your box immediately – and continue to do it – in order to make it to the next round. You also have to remember, the show is based off of The Boulet Brothers’ experiences in drag and doing things that made us who we are, so piercing yourself or breathing fire or getting a tattoo isn’t a big deal to us.

What extermination ideas do you have for the fourth season?

S: Yeah, OK, you really tried it!

What is the biggest fear you’ve overcome?

D: Oh god, so many things. I used to have crippling anxiety that manifested in so many ways – a lot of my childhood was spent alone because of it. I had to really dig into my head and unlearn these distorted behaviours that we all learn from our parents and society, and it was all about acknowledging deep-rooted fears and facing them. Now when something scares me, I try and jump towards it. I make myself do it.

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I….DON’T 💔💍💔 Grabbing a handful of my new BOObies for @grahammorrison 👻 Part 3 coming soon. Photos by: @grahammorrison

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Halloween is almost upon us. What is the spookiest thing that’s happened to you? Have you had a supernatural encounter?

S: I don’t know if this is as juicy as “I saw a ghost!” but there is [a] kind of magic, I guess you could call it, that floats around Dragula. We call it the “dark blessing of Dragula” on set. It’s like a probability field that makes things possible that seem like they shouldn’t be possible. It manifests in ways like, if we were going to cast a contestant and it mysteriously doesn’t work out and then we later find out that the person is a nightmare and we dodged a bullet. Another way it has worked is, we will think up some crazy location like a plane hangar that we want to shoot in but that would be impossible to get, and suddenly an agent will call us and be like, “Hey this lady has a plane hangar she doesn’t use and wants to know if you want to film there tomorrow.” It’s just random things like that, that seem too good to be true.

What is your favourite horror film and why?

D: Halloween. There’s something sad under the surface of that movie that has always intrigued me. It also stands the test of time and still looks great. It’s so well scored, and it’s such a simple concept but at the same time so well done.
S: Hellraiser. It’s sex, it’s fashion, it’s passion, pain and pleasure – it’s perfect.

Have you ever had a near-death experience?

D: Several. The first time I was climbing a second level porch and grabbed onto a live wire that was painted over that I didn’t see. It shocked me pretty bad and I fell two stories down. I also once had a car cross the highway and hit me head on and my car flipped a few times; somehow, I walked away from that unscathed. Oh, and I also got caught swimming in a riptide in the ocean once and thought I was going to drown. Wow, listing all that out makes me sound like a walking disaster!

If you could resurrect a deceased celebrity for a day, who would it be and what would you get up to?

D: Mollie Sugden [from Are You Being Served?] We would go to the pub and have a gin and tonic after her shift at Grace Brothers. Yes, I know Ms. Slocombe is a fictional character, but don’t ruin this for me – we don’t do a lot of British press, so this is my big chance to squeeze a reference in!

S: Divine. We’d go shoplifting all afternoon, hit Studio 54 and party until dawn.

What is the strangest thing you’ve received from a fan?

S: Food. I appreciate the thought, but Sherry, I don’t know you like that.

Do you watch Drag Race? If so, which queen are you a fan of and why?

D: Our taste in TV is pretty out there. We like really gritty reality TV or horror shows. Our latest obsession is 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way, which is part-gritty reality and part-unintentional suburban horror, all wrapped up into a ugly bow.

What would a crossover Dragula/Drag Race episode look like?

D: Hell freezing over.

The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula: Resurrection premieres on Shudder on 20 October.