The Boulet Brothers On Their New Special, Tour & The Future Of Dragula
The Boulet Brothers On Their New Special, Tour & The Future Of Dragula
The drag stars dish to PRIDE about their Halfway to Halloween TV Special, the Titans tour, why they don’t need allies, and remember their friend and sister Heklina.
The Boulet Brothers are some of the busiest, booked-and-blessed queens in the business, which is saying a lot. Along with four seasons of The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula — which have only grown in popularity with each successive run — The Boulet Brothers Dragula: Resurrection, and the smash hit The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula: Titans, they also have their first-ever holiday special heading to Shudder tomorrow.
The Boulet Brothers’ Halfway to Halloween TV Special marks a departure from their previous, competition-based outings. Instead, it's a scripted series featuring musical performances and transgressive skits that celebrate all things spooky.
The special is a call back to the era of retro holiday variety shows, and the roster of guest stars making appearances is stacked. Joining in the festivities are David Dastmalchian, Kevin Smith, Emily Hampshire, Taran Killam, Matthew Lillard, Jorge Garcia, and Steve Agee.
The special also boasts appearances from horror royalty including Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, Chopping Mall), Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp), Derek Mears (Friday the 13th, Swamp Thing), and the satanic doo-wop band Twin Temple.
Of course, plenty of beloved fellow drag stars including Katya, Kendra Onixx, Koco Caine, Melissa Befierce will be making their presences known throughout the special.
No question, it's going to be a night to remember — or is that dismember? Either way, it would be enough to keep anyone busy, and yet that's not all for the diabolical duo, who are also headlining their Titans tour. When PRIDE caught up with them, they were fresh off a performance in Orlando.
Courtesy of Shudder
Swanthula couldn't help but heap praise on one of the performances from the previous night's show. “Koco, Victoria [Elizabeth Black], and Hoso [Terratoma] will be at almost every stop... Right now the fourth spot is being held by Melissa Befierce. And I'll have to say today, having only one show under our belt, it's Melissa that has really brought it. I mean, she brought the house down last night, like people were out of their seats and screaming for what she was doing. She's an amazing performer,” the Boulet told PRIDE.
Shifting gears, Swanthula turned to talk about the upcoming special and her enthusiasm for it is infectious. It turns out the special was both a long time coming and happened really quickly. “This unscripted project has kind of been spinning around in the back of our minds for a while. It's been something that we've been really trying to kind of tee up and set up to put out into the world,” she recalls, revealing that despite that, it wasn't the show they were originally planning to put out this month on Shudder.
“We knew we were going to do something in spring and it was going to be something else. And then late in the fall, Drac and I got really inspired by those specials that you used to see in the '80s like the Paul Lynde Special and like Elvira's and Pee Wee Herman's Christmas Specials…the NBC stars' Christmas special, and all these stars will come together. And it looked so exciting. The PR for it and the teasers were always just sizzling,” Swanthula adds.
Courtesy of Shudder
So the duo took their idea to the network, which, much to their surprise and delight, was supportive of the change in plans. “Shudder and AMC have been great partners, they really stand behind anything we want to do, I feel really blessed,” Swanthula reports. “They're like, ‘oh, yes, if you want to change lanes and go forward with that, and you think you can do it, do it,’ and pieces just clicked into place.”
She’s also so excited for the audiences to see a brand new side of the Boulets, outside of their roles as judges and mentors in a competitive setting. “This was a different kind of joy because we just got to flex our creativity in a different way without the element of competition,” shares Swanthula. “You know, this was just about creating something cool and fun and dark, with a really dark sense of humor. It's really joyous if you're a weirdo; if you love darkness and you love Halloween, this is like coming home. It's warm and fuzzy. It's oddly heartwarming and you'll laugh.”
The show also got a boost from their partnership with actor and producer Dastmalchian, who the two first met when he appeared as a guest judge on Dragula. “We just clicked... we have the same sensibility. We have the same sense of humor. He's really creative and supportive, and that's reciprocal,” Swanthula says.
“He’s become a really good friend of ours,” says Swanthula. “He stepped forward and kind of put his name in the hat and said, ‘Hey, I'm a huge fan of what you do and I would love to just get involved in any way possible.’ In Hollywood, I don't know how close to heart you should take things like that.”
Together, they put out the call for people to get involved, and quickly assembled their impressive list of stars and horror personalities. “All of a sudden we had this roster of legitimate stars, powerhouse stars that were on our set, and now Drac and I are directing Matthew Lillard and other stars in these skits that we wrote. It's incredible,” she recalls.
While they remained mum on any spoilers for the special, Dracmorda did confess which skit she’s most excited for, one involving Sleepaway Camp star Felissa Rose. “We got [Felissa] back out in the woods for something really special,” she says. “We shot with her all day out in the middle of nowhere, and it was fantastic. I'm really excited for people to see that that's one I can tease.”
While the special is an ode to all things spooky, being out on the road as a drag performer today can be downright scary — The Boulets, however, remain boldly, defiantly unafraid. “You hear so much stuff on the news about these drag bills. But here we are in Orlando, which is probably one of the worst culprits of that. And you know, you watch the news, you're like, Oh my god if you're a drag queen and you step foot in Florida, you're gonna explode. And we go there and there's like zero nothing. It was a sold-out show,” says Dracmorda. “I think there was one weirdo and a camo truck driving around. But I think he saw our crowd and got scared and left. I don't think it was the crowd he signed up for. I think maybe the Hamburger Mary's brunch crowd and he got a completely different crowd.”
“He saw leather and tattoos and he was like, I'm out of here,” adds Swanthula with a devilish laugh.
The reality is while the heat has unquestionably turned up on drag performers, this is hardly the first time that The Boulets have had to face discrimination on the road — or even in their hometown.
“We've sort of been doing really alternative events for a long time, and through some very intense political situations in the past. So I think we're pretty adept at maintaining the integrity of our shows, and still going on performing despite whatever challenges might be. Because there's always something. This is just the soup of the day, what's it going to be tomorrow?” says Dracmorda.
Swanthula puts it in perspective. “When we were younger, the climate that we grew up in as queer people in our own respective towns, there was always the threat of just being assaulted, or bullied, or confronted, just because of who you are,” she recalls, adding that surviving those scenarios and becoming so strong is something the duo wears like a badge of honor. ”We're totally used to and in fact, we kind of puff our chests up a little bit in the face of that type of adversity.”
Besides, jokes Swanthula, perhaps the protestors should think twice before messing with The Boulets and their fans. “I gotta say, I keep seeing videos of the people that are there sort of protesting this stuff. And I would warn them because they look a little out of shape to me. And the queer community is pretty fit. I don't think that you really want to be stepping in some of these muscle queens or these lesbians. You don't want the smoke. I don't know, I think they should rethink that,” she laughs.
This self-sufficient and punk attitude extends to their ideas about allyship at this moment. “This is gonna sound really weird,” says Dracmorda. “I don’t want it. I don't need it. The reason I feel that way is because I have always thought to myself, 'You're on your own, you have to figure out how to stand up for yourself and represent yourself.' It's nice to have it but you can't depend on it. And you can't cry when you don't get it.”
This go-it-alone ethos comes from a long history of having to be her own ally. “We grew up in a time where we had zero support, I was certainly the only person that I can think of in my town that was queer. You didn't come out of the closet, and it was a scary place to be. People would definitely get beat up and attacked. It would not be a pleasant life for you,” Dracmorda explains. “So I think that growing up in those sorts of environments, we learned how to sort of say, 'You know what, I can stand up for myself, I'm going to represent myself... I'm certainly not going to accept inequality.'”
“It's nice to have allyship,” says Dracmorda, “But I don't think we need it. I think we should demand equality no matter what, and just not accept anything else.”
Courtesy of Shudder
Admittedly, the Boulet's audiences and performances skew much more adult than many of the queens on the frontline of the backlash, a fact of which Dracmorda is well aware. “I'm not gonna go to the library to read a book to a little kid. Just to be completely straight up, that's not the kind of drag that we do anyway. So, I'm a little bit outside of this fight here,” she adds.
While they don't have any reading hours planned, The Boulets do have plenty of other irons in the fire, including future seasons of Dragula. “It's in pre-production right now. I can say that it's gonna be very different than what people are used to,” Dracmorda says of the next season of the hit series.
“We said at the end of Titans, we're sort of closing chapter one on the show. Always as artists — really for me and Swan — our artistic integrity is the most important. More than what fans want or anything. And we sort of want the show to always evolve to keep us interested. We don't want to pump out the same thing over and over and over,” she continues. “So I think you'll see a different Dragula, you know, this is a new version of it.”
Speaking of Titans, will we see more of them rise in the future? “I think it's possible,” says a coy Swanthula, who’s been so happy with the way the first season highlighted the talents and star power of its returning queens. “It's just kind of a great example of what reality TV and competitions can do to contestants and artists. If you put them in a certain environment, and they might go home early, you're like, ‘Oh, well, maybe they're just not that good’. But sometimes it's the luck of the draw. Sometimes it's just the chemistry and the alchemy of the moment.”
She points to Koco Caine’s rising star as a perfect example of that. “We brought someone like Koco back and all of a sudden, you're like, ‘This person is a powerhouse. You get to see them in a brand-new light. I think there's a lesson in there about reality TV and competitions in general.”
Courtesy of Shudder
As for whether or not they will descend back into the underworld, Swanthula says it's a definite possibility — one that Dracmorda seemingly confirms by admitting they’re already thinking of the mix of personalities that would make up the next Titans cast. “The choice of the cast was based on alchemy, and there are definitely people that I would like to come back to that I don't think fit with the last cast, but I think would fit really nicely with a new cast,” Dracmorda says. “We sort of know who we're looking at for this next crop, and some of them would be part of a second Titan season. So we have to sort of get on the other side of that first.”
While the Boulets have no shortage of things to celebrate now, they’re also mourning the painful loss of their friend and fellow drag star, Heklina, whose sudden passing earlier this month sent a shockwave of grief through the drag and queer communities.
Dracmorda was eager to talk about her sister. “I want people to ask about Heklina all the time,” she says, recalling how they came to be friends. The three met a long time ago when they were both running similar clubs in Los Angeles in San Francisco. After years of comparisons, which neither party appreciated, the three finally met and instantly struck up a personal and professional friendship.
“She's one of the most genuine, kindest, and generous people I've ever met in this scene. I would have said that two weeks ago to, you know, before this happened, it's the truth. She extended herself to us in a way that nobody else has in this scene and I don't think ever will. She was genuine. She was earnest and direct and blunt and funny and warm,” recalls Dracmorda.
“So that’s all the nicey, cutie stuff, but I can tell you she was much wilder when she was younger,” Dracmorda continues. “She told me the story once about this really famous drag queen — and I'm not going to tell you the name of the drag queen, similar age bracket — they got in a street brawl. She had said something to Heklina, and Heklina put a bunch of filled beers in her purse and clobbered the other drag queen. She jumped on top of her and started punching her and beating her up! You know, whatever that person said to her was heinously wrong because Heklina is incredibly nice. I was not there to see it. I wish I was. That's one of my favorite stories of her.”
Swanthula agrees with a laugh. “I wish I was too! Heklina was just warm and fun. She was so fun and so quick to laugh and really generous. I love her and I will miss her,” she concludes.