RuPaul Charles (‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’) on the ‘out of body experience’ of winning an Emmy [Complete Interview Transcript]

RuPaul Charles is gradually becoming an Emmy magnet, winning three in a row for hosting “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” The series also won for the first time last year, and he and the show are nominated again this year.

The “Drag Race” host recently spoke with Gold Derby senior editor Marcus Dixon about what it means to win Emmys, why it took so long to cast Nina West and a future guest judge he’s hoping to get on the show.

Gold Derby: I just have to start by congratulating you. You personally have won three Emmys for Reality Host. You’re one away from the record. Do you know who has the record?

RuPaul Charles: Shirley Temple? Abraham Lincoln. Mamie Eisenhower.

GD: Very close. It’s Jeff Probst. So if you win this year you will tie his record.

RC: Really? Wow. That would be interesting. But I didn’t choose the game, boo. The game chose me. I’m just happy to have a job, honestly.

GD: The show itself won Best Competition Program for the first time. What was that moment like? I just rewatched the clip. There was a standing ovation in the room. What was that feeling like when they opened the envelope and they say, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”?

RC: The feeling, it’s an out of body experience because you’re not sure if it’s really happening. I wasn’t. I’ve seen pictures of us all onstage. I don’t really remember it (laughs). It’s very exciting to have worked on the show for so many years and a lot of the crew members have been here for years and years and years. For their peers to recognize our show is lovely. But we do it because we love it. We do the show because it’s exciting and we love creating a platform for all of these incredible queens to get introduced to the world and start their international careers.

GD: You guys just got pick up for Season 12. Congratulations.

RC: Did we? Oh my goodness, small victories! We’re shooting 12 right now so thank god we got picked up.

GD: Is there anything you can tease at all? Probably not but I have to ask.

RC: Well, every year the girls make it special. We create the show, it’s a well-oiled machine, we create the challenges and we do all the stuff and it’s all very clever and it’s all very funny and fun but it’s not until we add the drag queens that it becomes its own unique animal. It makes it special every single year and I love it.

GD: Speaking of last season, which is the one you’re eligible for now at the Emmys, I believe the main show has nine nominations but overall with “Untucked” and your short-form shows and “All Stars,” I think it’s more like 15 in total.

RC: Let’s go with 17.

GD: Let’s just go with 32 like “Game of Thrones.”

RC: Oh wow, 32! Thank you, academy!

GD: What’s it like to finally be embraced by the academy? The first few years you guys were overlooked, you were snubbed. I’m sure you told yourself, “Someday they’ll get it.”

RC: I gotta be honest, I come from the East Village clubs and all of that stuff and I have always created my own path, as my collaborators, we all come from the East Village club scene from the ‘80s so the recognition from the mainstream culture was never really part of my plan. It’s great but it was never really something that was make or break. We knew our show was fabulous all those years that we were not nominated, which is fine. The real prize has always been being able to do it and to do it for so many years. That’s the real prize. That’s true not just in television shows but it’s true in life. The fact that you get to wake up and do what you like to do or have freedom, clean air, drinking water, running water inside the building, those are all pluses.

GD: The winner last year was Yvie Oddly, who was my favorite so I’m glad we lined up there. How tough was that decision between Yvie and Brooke Lynn Hytes?

RC: It’s always a tough decision but in reality, the truth is, all the girls win. Even if you’re the first to get eliminated like Vanjie so many years ago, Vanjie, one episode turned into an international star overnight. The truth is, they all win. I know that sounds like a copout but the truth is, you’re on television, you’re a winner. It’s true. The money, the prize, great. There’s certain winners who you never hear from again and then there are people who don’t win who become even bigger stars.

GD: Let’s talk about Nina West.

RC: Let’s talk about her.

GD: Miss Congeniality.

RC: What do you wanna say? What have you heard?

GD: She’s such a memorable contestant and I’m so glad that she won Miss Congeniality ‘cause I was rooting for her and I actually met her in person. She’s the nicest person in the world.

RC: What’s she like in bed?

GD: (Laughs.) Hey, that’s TMI.

RC: You are beet red. Can you guys see this? (Laughs.) Oh.

GD: But let’s talk about the moment she won. She won Miss Congeniality she said one word, she goes, “Meh.” And made it all worth it.

RC: She’s funny. She had auditioned more than any other contestant in history.

GD: What took you so long?

RC: A lot of times we’ll have kids audition and they will audition for the same role. Now, this is some behind the scenes speak so go with me on this. We have comedy queens, we have body queens, there are singers. Sometimes someone will audition for that same role and what we’re doing in the casting, it’s an ensemble. So sometimes two girls will go for the same gig. Are you with me on this? And one will cancel out the other. That’s what happened is that we had girls playing that role. This is behind the scenes speak so you have to go with me, John Q. Public here. It’s an ensemble case so a lot of times we don’t have two of the same character. So she got canceled out several times.

GD: How involved are you personally in the casting process?

RC: Every step of the way. You ain’t gonna step on this stage if I haven’t approved. That’s not ego, that’s just the show is called what?

GD: RuPaul!

RC: “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” (Laughs.)

GD: Let’s talk about some of your guest judges. You had Miley Cyrus. Whose idea was it to have her go in the workroom wearing the “Undercover Boss” makeup?

RC: That was her idea. She spent many years undercover as Hannah Montana so it’s kind of in her wheelhouse. That was her idea.

GD: You’ve had Lady Gaga on the show. One of my favorites was Joel McHale because he had this animosity or something going on with Michelle Visage. What was going on there?

RC: Joel, who’s a friend of our show and who’s absolutely lovely, I’ve known him for many years, I think he felt a little nervous. So he kind of overcompensated by being a little obnoxious. Michelle was not having it. What was she not having? It. So that’s what that was.

GD: I hope he comes back ‘cause I love their little rapport.

RC: If he comes back he’ll have to not wear pants. Or underwear.

GD: Do you have a dream guest host that you really wanna see on the show and maybe you’ve been fighting for them but they’ve been saying no?

RC: Well, Mamie Eisenhower has not answered our calls. I don’t know what I ever did to her but I’d love to have her on the show. Mamie, if you’re watching this, please.

GD: I don’t think she’s watching. Michelle Obama would be good. I’m gonna throw out some of my ideas.

RC: I got to meet her earlier this year when we were filming “Drag Race UK” I went to her “Becoming” book tour and then had snacks afterward at her afterparty. Couldn’t be more engaging, smart and absolutely lovely and elegant. Could not have been more of those things.

GD: That’s what we want from a future president, right?

RC: Absolutely. That would be great. Oh my god. Oh, if she could run for president. Dear God and Jesus and everybody up there, could you please make Michelle Obama run for president? Please? Pretty please?

GD: I think we just created a meme right there.

RC: Really? Oh wow.

GD: We have to talk about Silky Nutmeg Ganache. In Episode 1, Silky said that he’s gonna have a spinoff one day. Would you watch that spinoff?

RC: Absolutely. I would watch Silky Nutmeg Ganache… I’m sorry. I would watch the doctor reverend Silky Nutmeg Ganache do anything. I think she is fantastic and I would love to see her reading the news, I’d love to see her in a children’s show, I’d love to see her in a cop drama. Maybe we can reboot “Police Woman” for Silky Nutmeg. I’d like to see her do anything. I think she’s fantastic.

GD: You talked a little bit about Miss Vanjie coming back. Is there anyone else from the past that made a really big impact but they didn’t make it very far and that you would like to see have another shot?

RC: Well, we do have a television program called “All Stars” and they do come back. I think all of the girls are really fabulous. The fact that they get on the show means I am a fan of theirs. I love drag queens. Always have. It’s something that I need to talk about with my therapist.

GD: Well it’s a good thing you have a show about them. So Ru, some of your competition this year at the Emmys for Reality Host is you have Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman for a show on NBC. What’s it like going up against those two? They’re pretty famous, pretty well-known people.

RC: I don’t feel it’s really going up against them. The most fun part of the Emmy experience, for real, is the nomination process because you’re part of this group, this club. It’s sort of like a girl gang and it feels you’re just a part of this thing. I know it sounds like a pageant answer but I love being part of this thing and everybody’s in it, all the people nominated. Once you win, go with me on this, you’re alone. It’s just you and weirdly, it feels more special when you’re part of this group. The parties haven’t happened yet, I’m gonna go to all the parties, I’m gonna see everybody, I’m gonna say, “What’s up,” we’re gonna dance, we’re gonna have a little chicken, we’re gonna do all that stuff, I’m gonna wear lots of outfits. I may even wear several outfits per night. That’s the fun part. But once you win, it’s just you and your award and the people who are part of the show. That’s all fun. It’s strange. Go with me on this. Don’t judge me too harshly.

GD: Where do you put them? Do you have a shelf?

RC: Wouldn’t you like to know (laughs).

GD: You’re getting quite a lot of them now. You’re accumulating them.

RC: I have four now because as a producer of the show, when the show won, I got one there too. So I have one, two, three and four. That’s as high as I can count so if I win again, I won’t be able to go beyond this.

GD: Best of luck this year. Do you have a speech planned in case it happens again.

RC: I don’t.

GD: You’re just gonna wing it?

RC: Yeah, I’ve collected sayings all my life, things like, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else,” which I think I said last time. Things like, “Everybody say love,” I think I did that one too. I may have to pull out one of my oldies but goodies. I may have to pull out, “Scam money don’t make money, but freak money do!”

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