Jonathan Van Ness Interview: ‘Gay of Thrones,’ ‘Queer Eye’
“It’s been such an incredibly transformative time in my life, where I’ve learned so much about myself,” explains Jonathan Van Ness. “Including that I wanted to be an entertainer. The hairdresser became a household name thanks to “Queer Eye,” but Van Ness just earned his first Emmy nomination for Best Short Form Variety Series as executive producer of Funny or Die’s “Gay of Thrones.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.
It’s fitting that Van Ness snatched his first Emmy nomination for the final season of the series that first put him in front of a camera. The web series was born out of a real life conversation Van Ness struck up with Funny or Die’s Erin Gibson, as Van Ness styled her hair. Gibson asked the stylist if he had been watching “Game of Thrones,” and as Van Ness puts it, “I kind of went into this little trance. I like to joke that it was a fugue state of recapping the show.” When he emerged from his off the cuff recap, Gibson wanted to put it on camera.
“It’s definitely helped me become a better performer” says Van Ness. “Gay of Thrones” shoots on a tight schedule. After watching the HBO series on Sunday night, the team furiously drafts a script and filming takes place early Monday morning so the episode can be edited and online by Tuesday. And Van Ness must perform opposite a new co-star each week, often meeting them for the first time on set. That experience helped the host in all corners of his career by forcing him to find ways of quickly becoming comfortable with new people and “getting the best out of them.” With the final season netting appearances from A-Listers like Kumail Nanjiani, Anna Farris and Tiffany Haddish, clearly Hollywood talent is clamoring to have a ball with Van Ness. According to the host, the series has grown into “a fun collaborative space to create.”
When Van Ness picked up the “fab five” gig for “Queer Eye,” he initially had to fly from New York to Los Angeles every week to film the web series. He looks back on the experience realizing that he wanted to work more and tell stories on camera. “One month later I booked ‘Queer Eye’ and was on camera seven days a week… all of a sudden all my dreams came true.” Managing all of those realized dreams can be overwhelming, but Van Ness is enjoying the experiences coming his way. “Do you remember that show… the one about behind the scenes on MTV?” he asks, before describing a series which examined the crazy lives of music artists. “I feel like that’s my life. I’m Christina Aguilera in a black car… except if Christina Aguilera couldn’t sing, was on unscripted TV, was obsessed with figure skating, and had a lot of cats.”
With “Game of Thrones” ended, there are no more tales of Westeros for Van Ness to recap. No more hysterical nicknames to assign (Van Ness makes sure to claim full credit for dubbing Cersei Lannister as “Evil No-Volume Carol Brady”). Saying goodbye to the show that first gave the stylist an audience has been sad and hard. “I’m so proud of our crew,” he says, praising the team who came together every week and left their “hearts and souls on the comedic dance floor.”
Of course, HBO has already announced a “Game of Thrones” prequel series. Would Van Ness ever think about returning to set to dish the early days of Westeros? It’s an easy call for America’s favorite hairdresser. “If the prequel is lit, I’m there.”