The Boulets On Casting Titans, Staying Radical & Those Exterminations
The Boulets On Casting Titans, Staying Radical & Those Exterminations
Speaking with PRIDE, Dragula creators Swanthula and Dracmorda Boulet open up about what drives them, having boundaries, and why they’ll never stop pushing the limits of the art of drag.
The highly anticipated new season of The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula: Titans drops on Shudder today. A new iteration of the hit drag competition series, it brings together 10 fan favorites to try their hand at snatching the darkest crown and title of them all: Dragula Titan.
But that’s not all. It was also shot on an elaborate set known as The Underground, created specifically for this season to enact the Boulet’s ghoulish vision, as well as to pay homage to seasons past. All signs point to a truly epic and gag-worthy season of the now-beloved series.
It’s a far cry from Dragula’s humble DIY, YouTube roots, and it’s a validation of Dracmorda and Swanthula's faith that they were creating something truly special right from the very start.
“When you’re working on something creative, I think you can get a feeling when something feels special. There’s something about Dragula that’s always had this magic to it, that we felt confident that it would get as large as it has, and even bigger. It was just kind of like almost a little bit of a waiting game for people to catch up,” Dracmorda tells PRIDE.
“We’ve been passionate and excited about it since season one. And I’m just grateful that the rest of the world is finally caught up,” Swathula adds with a laugh.
The world has caught up with the wonderfully macabre and transgressive series as it continues to grow in popularity with each passing season. While a blessing for the creators, popularity comes with a unique brand of challenges, particularly for an art form that thrives on the fringes. How do they keep the subversive spirit of the show alive now that the mainstream is beginning to embrace it? For Dracmorda, the first step is maintaining control of their art.
“We own all of our IPs, so we don’t ever have people coming to us and being like, ‘change this and move that and do that.’ It’s sort of like all or nothing with us, you either buy it or you don’t. I think maintaining that control allows us to continue to deliver authenticity and everything we do,” she explains.
But more than that, it’s a passion for authenticity that inspires the Boulets. “I think there’s another factor here, kind of like the X factor; money is nice, but Drac and I are not driven by money,” Swanthula shares. “So we can’t be seduced with this idea that it has to reach everybody, and it has to be a common denominator — because that’s boring. That homogenization is so far from the truth of what [Dragula] is and the inspiration of what we’ve been creating. So we’re more excited about that authenticity, to honoring the inner freak and celebrating that misfit kind of energy, as opposed to like profiting from it.”
“That’s the dangerous part of taking a form of artistic expression and turning it into entertainment,” says Dracmorda. “It’s like if you took the art of oil painting, and you’re like, ‘I need to sell it at Walmart,’ you know what I mean? It really starts to undo what it is. As drag becomes more mainstream, and you see drag artists show up and really like Disney things, it’s a question. What is it? And is it changing? And that’s why I think our show is important because it reminds people of what I believe is the root of drag.”
While that drive to stay outside the mainstream and true to their dark vision has made the Boulets beloved by fans, it also opens them up for an enormous amount of criticism, particularly on social media — even from those who would purport to value them for their transgressive nature.
“People who sort of claim the radical title tend to be the most authoritative about what they want you to believe,” Dracmorda explains. “If you’re going to sort of embrace ‘leftist’ policies, you have to embrace all of them to the tee, or you know what I mean? So in a way, it’s almost counterproductive. It’s like, wait a minute, you’re pushing this radical agenda, but it’s very rigid. And so I find it a little difficult to walk that line sometimes.”
That kind of pressure would make it difficult to stay the course for most, particularly when the call to change or to confirm is coming from inside the metaphorical house. “Not everybody will have it in them to say, ‘Oh, this is the trend or this is the way that river is flowing. I’m gonna paddle against that flow,’” adds Swanthula. “They just need someone to be the torchbearer for that. By nature [we’ve always been] on the fringe, even within being in the queer culture. We’re not just queer we’re weird and queer, so we don’t have a choice, that’s just who and what we are.”
That doesn’t mean they haven’t had to develop a plan for dealing with the inevitable trolling that comes their way. “It’s mute, block, delete,” laughs Dracmorda.
It also helps that they have one another to look to for support when social media criticism becomes overwhelming. “That’s what I’m always so grateful for because I look at other people who might be on the fringe, or they’re punk or they’re transgressive, or they’re leaders in their own subversive genre,” says Swanthula. “I really commend them because they might not have a wingman or a confidant in everything, and we have that…. So it’s not hard for us to block those voices out and say, I see what you’re trying to do here. But that’s an absolute no.”
While joining the cast of Dragula offers the artists who compete a whole new platform and opportunities, it also means they’ll face the brunt of an all-too-often toxic fandom online, something the Boulets do their best to prepare them for.
“I think it’s important to set boundaries for yourself, and we tell our competitors on the show this. I’m like, look, half the people are gonna hate you, half the people are gonna like you, and they’re all gonna let you know if you open that door, but I highly suggest not opening that door,” says Dracmorda. “So [have] your drag persona and who you are on TV, and then have who you are and your personal life — and don’t mix the two up, which is why we never appear out of drag partially.”
It’s true: Attempting a Google search the Boutlets out of drag pulls up essentially nothing and that didn’t happen by accident. “We do very much value our private life and the show is really like an extension of our creativity, it is our drag to a great degree. We share a lot of our views and a lot of our opinions about everything through that art. But that’s not a doorway into our private world,” shares Dracmorda. “We live in a society that elected Donald Trump by choice. So this is not necessarily the sort of world that [makes] you want to open up yourself to all these people’s opinions,” she laughs.
This ethos of taking care of their cast and their mental health also played a role in selecting which queens would be returning for Titans, although Swanthula admits she briefly considered another way of casting the queens. “We thought about who would be the most dramatic and the most problematic if we put them together,” she laughs.
“I always said that,” adds Dracmorda, who suggests another more villainous version of the show. “But you know, Swan and the rest of our people, our production company, will not allow me to do: I want to do a season of the worst and most difficult people. All villains,” she says with a laugh.
Instead, the Boulets sought out queens who both felt they had the most to prove and who were up to the task. “Everybody says they’ve grown since they’ve been on the show, but that’s not always the case,” says Dracmorda. “They may have grown in their minds, but I don’t know that they actually have,” she adds with her patented bluntness.
Not only did the Boulets want to see evolution, they also needed queens who could continue to be authentic and vulnerable in front of the camera. “I think [some former contestants] have a problem doing that now that they know what it’s like to see themselves on film. They’re very controlled about how they present themselves, which is pretty boring for the audience,” Dracmorda says.
The last factor the Boulets considered was what impact returning would have on the queens themselves. “We care about all of our competitors. And I know some of them, they might not be in the right financial place to take a risk like this. [We knew what we were serving up this season] and we’re like, ‘that person is not going to do well in this environment.’ So we feel like for their own mental health…it wasn’t a good idea for them to come on right now,” she adds.
The truth is, being judged on a stage in front of peers and the world is hard on anyone, and this year the stakes are even higher — and the critiques even tougher. “I was a little mean,” admits Swanthula. “And you know why? Because we have worked so hard to create this platform and elevate people that are…like double marginalized. And if you didn’t come prepared, or you weren’t ready to perform, I kind of take that as a personal offense, because there might be 35 other people in the wings who would kill for that opportunity. So I was mean.”
In the fourth season, the Boutlets broke down some of the fourth wall during the judging, whether it be through funny asides between the two of them, or showing flashbacks to the performances that revealed some of the issues the queens had in their floor shows. Not only did audiences appreciate these more candid moments, but they helped the judging feel more accurate and fair.
The floor shows are presented almost in music video style, which was a positive for the contestants but created backlash for the Boulets. “We want to present them in the best light so that they look gorgeous and they look incredible on TV. But in season two, for example, that was to the detriment of us. People started questioning our judgment because we were making them look too good. And I’m like, well get ready because now we’re going to show what really happened,” Dracmorda laughs.
“People were scalping us online,” recalls Swanthula.
Everything is going to be bigger, darker, and, yes, twistier than in previous seasons, the Boulets share. It was to the point where the cast nicknamed Titans “Gagula”. The Boulets were determined to keep the returning queens on their toes. “I think their mindset was, ‘hey, I’ve done this before.’ Day one, we just slapped their face, ripped off their wig, and pulled out the rug from under them. These are the changes that we’re making. And they’re like, ‘holy shit,” laughs Swanthula. “One of [the queens] was was quoted as saying ‘curveballs is the default setting for the season.’”
“I’m afraid to go online after this season airs. Let’s just put it that way,” adds Dracmorda with a laugh.
It should come as no surprise that the exterminations will be just as shocking as well. The Boulets confess that while they do quiz the queens about their greatest fears during casting, it’s the cruel vagaries of fate that are responsible for which exterminations they face when the time comes. “This is like one of these things that’s like we call the magic of Dragula,” says Dracmorda wickedly.
“These are the serendipitous ways that’s like holy shit. It’s one of those signals from the universe where we know we’re on the right path,” adds Swanthula.
Further evidence that they’re on the right path is how the show continues to grow and how new opportunities have come the Boulets’ way. They’re hosting a massive two-night Halloween Ball in L.A. October 28 and 29, and their television empire is continuing to grow. “There are other spin-offs that we’re working on and there are also scripted projects that we’re working on too,” shares Dracmorda. “There’s a lot going on, but there’s definitely more planned with stars from Dragula.”
The Boulet Brothers Dragula: Titans premieres today on Shudder. Watch the trailer below.
MEET OUR MONSTERS (TITANS EDITION) • The Official Boulet Brothers' Dragula: Titans Cast Revealwww.youtube.com