Interview Catch-Up: HBO’s Life-Changing ‘We’re Here’
Need a reason to vote for 'We're Here' for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program? Check out ADTV's interviews with the
Everyone here at Awards Daily TV is a big fan of HBO’s fabulous drag documentary series, We’re Here. Created by Stephen Warren and Johnnie Ingram, the new series follows RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni Bob the Drag Queen, Shangela, and Eureka O’Hara as they zigzag across the country and spread the love and experience of drag by putting complete strangers into heels and makeup. Every episode ends with happy tears and a fierce drag show. This season, team members from Awards Daily TV had the privilege to speak with a number of talent involved with HBO’s newest sensation. We’re all crossing our painted fingers that it takes home the Emmy for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program.
At the end of April, we gave We’re Here a rave review by saying:
“We’re Here has an open heart that bleeds more with everything we are living through now, but it’s smart to have these three queens in charge. They will lead the way for a stronger, more united world. They are warm, intelligent and fabulous, and We’re Here ends up being true, strong, and buoyant.”
Megan McLachlan spoke to Warren and Ingram about creating this series, and they told her about how they were looking for queens to guide these journeys with intellect as well as heart. Ingram spoke about how the show is very forgiving and how that related to his own personal experiences:
“It just depends on your background. People can evolve. My mother, when I first came out, was not happy or excited that I was gay. It took some time. I had to spend time and educate and help her understand the difference between her religious beliefs and backgrounds and being who I am and it not being a choice. It takes time and energy to bring people into your world. If you spend enough time doing it, there’s progress there. That is what this show is about, igniting these conversations. Some of it isn’t always great, but it’s a step forward and at least we’re having those conversations. But most importantly we have the episode, and it airs and you see drag and queer culture portrayed in a different light, celebrating the individuality of all types. We are all the same, even though we don’t look the same or have the same lifestyle. We all feel the same and have the same life challenges and pivots and twists and I think human kindness is all about, and that’s what we’re looking to do with the show.”
Director Peter LoGreco was in awe of the queens’ talents as they traveled across the country, but he also learned how well Bob, Shangela, and Eureka were able to give back by using their own experiences. I had the pleasure of speaking with Peter, and he detailed how the queens had to adjust their performances depending on the costumes or the space or the mood of the room.
“The degree in which they are able to turn the sum total of their experience into this fuel for their art was very powerful and inspiring. I have tremendous respect for that. On a craft level, I had an appreciation for how much is going into it, but until you are part of the process you don’t really know. Especially with what we drove them to do with the speed of the design of the shows and the costumes. The interaction between the costume designer and the drag queen was really sophisticated. They are all incredible artists because it’s not only just thinking about working for the story, but does it work for the movement? Does it work for the camera? Does it work with the choreography? It’s not just about looking pretty.”
Eureka O’Hara is from a small town, so they were able to connect with many of the people they were fortunate enough to work with. It’s so interesting to see their energy from RuPaul’s Drag Race and how that has evolved to help others. Eureka has a huge presence, and they are an integral reason to why the show is so successful. Read my interview with them here.
“I’m overly honest sometimes—almost honest to my detriment at times when people can’t handle that honesty. If you’re honest and vulnerable when they’re going through emotional things, they’re more open to being vulnerable with you. You have to give people a piece of yourself if you expect them to give you a piece of them.”
When you travel to areas that might not necessarily be, say, welcoming to gay or queer people, Shangela took it all in stride. In her interview with Megan McLachlan, Shangela revealed that they had to kill everyone with kindness. Any time Shangela is on screen, your face lights up. She is truly a joy and such a force of nature. You will always want Shangie in your corner. She will fight for you.
“What I’ve always been taught is to lead with the love in your heart. That’s how I was raised, by my mom and my grandma. The only way we’re ever going to get any type of progress—like i said—you have to be able to listen as well as to speak, especially if you want to be heard.”
Being a mentor feels like something in Bob the Drag Queen’s blood. In my interview with the RuPaul’s Drag Race season 8 winner, Bob recalled on how he always felt like being in front of an audience was part of his calling in life. I’ve always admired her fierce intelligence and her hilarious spirit. She’s seriously one of the greatest queens of all time.
“Well, I don’t know that I talk that much about strengthening the community, but sometimes I need to get the idea out of my brain, onto my lips, and into the ears of others. If that’s a side effect that’s great. When I was little, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I just knew that I wanted to be one of those people that got up to a lectern and gave speeches. I always wanted to do that, and becoming a comedian is my own rendition of that. I want to provoke thought through humor.”
Kevin Dillon spoke with a lot of talent who made all of the queens look flawless. In those opening moments, the queens must be able to serve to the townspeople of every city they descend upon, but they must also have completely new looks for the performances that we have at the end of every episode. Each queen has her own designer and they have to find the emotional journeys with the subjects to design each queen that assists them on stage.
“As far as the performances went, we get a paragraph blurb about the person and what it might end up becoming. Taking that information and trying to come up with a concept that highlights them and then Bob is an accessory to. Ideally presents something about the subject specifically and let that shine through.” –Domino, Bob the Drag Queen’s designer
“The performances are very story driven and it’s hard to design for someone you’ve never met before. You have to be prepared to change everything right away You have to be flexible to make that story.” –Diego Montoya, Shangela’s designer
“Eureka usually has a specific idea of what she wants. She’ll toss ideas around and then we’ll just go back and forth in hammering out those details until we have what she needs.” –Patryq Howell, Eureka O’Hara’s designer
When a queen travels across the country, she must do it in style. Think Priscilla, Queen of the Desert but more catered to her own unique brand. In order for Bob to arrive purse first, Shangela to shablam her way around and Eureka to lead the head as the elephant queen, they relied on production designer Marla Weinhoff to design spaces truly fit for a queen. Well, a trio of them. In her podcast interview with Kevin Dillon, she talked about the most incredible buses on the planet (sorry, Greyhound) and creating spaces for the queens to reheard and perform in.
“For me, I treated it designing Eureka’s bus the same way I approached designing a bus for Lady Gaga or Beyoncé or Madonna. I learned from the bus. I learned a lot from the generation of gay men who died of AIDS, so that original, camp, pop sensibility of queer culture was passed on very early. Those people left the world and it’s been my job to pass it along to the children.”
You can’t imagine how important light might mean to a drag queen, and cinematographers Ben Bloodwell and Bryan Donnell wanted to create a consistent presence behind the camera as cinematographers for We’re Here. In their podcast interview with Kevin Dillon, the duo explained how they wanted to capture realistic emotional moments without feeling like a reality show. They were stepping into the lives of these subjects in an unobtrusive way.
“I follow a look or a change of conversation. I try not to do something that’s not on my own. It almost feels like we’re just there. I feel like it’s visual empathy. It’s about physical decisions and sometimes it is extremely uncomfortable because I don’t want to move.” –Ben Bloodwell
We’re Here is streaming across all HBO platforms, including HBO Max. It was renewed for a second season this past June. Yay!