Considering all of RuPaul Andre Charles’ job titles (songwriter/makeup designer/reality show host/chocolate-maker/Emmy-winner/literal Emmy), it just makes sense that he would eventually branch out into voice acting on a 1950s radio-style fictional murder mystery podcast.
Deadly Manners, which premiered on
Mean Girls Day October 3, and costars RuPaul alongside Kristen Bell, Michelle Visage, Anna Chlumsky (Veep), Denis O’Hare (American Horror Story) and LeVar Burton (Reading Rainbow), follows Bell and O’Hare’s characters as they try to survive their own party after being snowed inside their mansion with a murderer. As a bonus, according to the show’s creators, the podcast could “possibly” include a queer character or two.
Created by Ali Garfinkel and directed by Alex Aldea, Deadly Manners draws at least some inspiration from mid-century radio dramas, as well as classic murder mysteries like 1932’s The Old Dark House and even 1985’s Clue. Still, the podcast has made every effort to represent a diverse group of people — or, at least, as diverse a group of people as one might find trapped in an American mansion in 1954.
“We in the writers’ room were very diverse, and very passionate about the fact that we want to be inclusive and representative of people because that's what we need in this world,” said Michael Varrati, a Deadly Manners writer. “It is kind of a dark time out there. So we want to make sure that people have that escape and that connection and the [LGBTQ] arc that is available to them.”
Varrati added that his favorite character to write for was Bell’s controlling heiress, Veronica Billings.
“I really like how kind of uptight and Type A she is, which led to a lot of opportunities to create pointed barbs and biting comedy,” he said.
Deadly Manners head writer and creator Ali Garfinkel said that when Bell first started reading for her character, “It was the voice that she had inside her head this entire time.” (However, it was just a major coincidence that Bell’s character had the same first name as Veronica Mars, another beloved Bell heroine.)
Aldea’s production team, Paragon Collective, is also responsible for the RuPaul/Michelle Visage gossip/advice podcast What’s the Tee, as well as Darkest Night, a weekly horror anthology series featuring Ru, Michelle, O’Hare, and others. Aldea shared with PRIDE that What’s the Tee has had such a wide-ranging impact that a closeted gay man in Saudi Arabia recently emailed the podcast with a heartbreaking story of how it felt to be gay in a country which recently voted to not condemn a death penalty for people engaging in same-sex relations.
“After 32 years you would think I would have a better grasp of handling being gay in this part of the world, but I haven’t,” the man wrote. “Please don’t tell me it that it will 'get better' because it won’t. The thought of suicide crosses my mind like clockwork … My only hope now is that someone will read this letter and just gives me a chance to change my life, that is all I need…”
If Thor were to seek asylum in the U.S. as a refugee, he would have to out himself and would never be able to return home to Saudi Arabia again. However, if he can work freelance jobs while traveling abroad, then he can still return home to see his family. Aldea praised the man’s talent and added that if anyone has freelance graphic design jobs available for “Thor” (a pseudonym), they can direct any information to [email protected]
Overall, Deadly Manners is shaping up to be a charming tale of murder and mayhem, and an auspicious entry for AMC Networks’ streaming services, Sundance Now and Shudder.
Episodes one through three are currently available for streaming, while episode four will become available on October 10.