Eight seasons long RuPaul’s Drag Race Formers Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova opened up their dark, twisted minds for their short film series World of Wonder UNHhhh, in which the duo discuss a range of topics including jealousy, the weather, phones and domesticity in front of a green screen. Riffs and tangents ensue, with Trixie and Katya fleshing out the episode’s theme, surrounded by animation, clip art, and text added in the edit. UNHhhh feels like a trippy visual podcast at times, a seedy public-facing show that’s sparked viral memes among the online drag-obsessed. After the series reached the 200 episode milestone this season, it was submitted for Emmy selection for the first time. It runs approximately 10-13 minutes and will be streamed on YouTube and WOW Presents Plus. Trixie and Katya spoke to me THR via Zoom about their longstanding collaboration and the Emmy nomination they are eyeing.
Did you bond immediately when you met? Drag Race?
KATYA Our cycles naturally sync up by staying in close proximity to each other. There was a lot of biological and psychological glue that held us together. But she still doesn’t know when my birthday is, so…
TRIXIE To be honest, Katya is probably someone I’ve spoken to the least. It wasn’t until later that we developed a real bond.
KATYA We talked on the phone a lot [after the show], and we quickly realized that we are not exactly the typical “Yas!”. Plant! Diva!” Sort of like drag people – not that we don’t love them, we just don’t belong. We felt like outsiders and that bonded us together. We were big fans of the WOW Presents videos – basically throwing them just throw some queens on a stool and say, “Hey, what do you think about birds or whatever?” Trixie came up with the idea that we should actually critique one of the longest-running and most popular shows on the network Fashion photo RuView, where we examine the outfits of the reviewers. And that strengthened our personal relationship, so to speak.
TRIXIE At the beginning there was a certain looseness, because even at the risk of sounding superficial: a show like ours didn’t really exist yet. We just talked [in front of] a green screen, and we didn’t really know what it would compare to. We went in a bit blind. Personally, I had never worked with a lady where we could toss the ball back and forth. When she and I started having frank discussions about the world of drag, it was like, “Oh my god, someone else feels like the chaperon among these demons.”
Eight seasons and over 200 episodes later, are you still finding ways to surprise each other?
KATYA Well, let me tell you something: A wonderful way to stay surprised is to get dementia, which I seem to have. I don’t remember anything. For me every day is like the first day.
TRIXIE To be honest, the only surprise we’re expecting is that some days I’m kind of not in the mood. Or some days you can tell that Katya is not in the mood. And then some days we both don’t feel like it. Those actually end up being the best because we both say, “Girls. We’re down to about 5 million episodes.”
KATYA It’s like senioritis. We can see the comet coming toward Earth.
TRIXIE There was a certain day when we were just at the end of our strength. Improvising when you’re really burned out – it’s like the batteries are dead.
Filming multiple episodes in a single day?
KATYA Three. We used to do four, but back then the episodes were shorter. And we were so ugly. Oof!
TRIXIE I think we just kept doing it because after seven years how many shows can say people are still watching it?
KATYA All it takes is getting an Emmy. (Grabs a foot figurine from a shelf.) That’s a gold foot, but it’s the closest thing I’ve got to an Emmy. Please!
It’s funny you say that. In the 200th episode, Trixie says she never wants to be nominated for anything because she hates losing.
TRIXIE You shouldn’t say you want it. That’s illegal, isn’t it?
KATYA Tell that to Melissa Leo! No one deserves anything but I would really, really love it. And you know, things might happen. Or we don’t get it, and then Hollywood Boulevard could witness a series of terrible events.
TRIXIE Sure, we have beautiful bodies and beautiful faces and hilarious personalities, but the editors — they really put on a show.
I’m very excited to see how the editing works. Do you have expectations of what the end product will look like? Or is it always a surprise?
KATYA When I walk out of the studio, I’m like, “Well, that was some steaming crap that nobody’s going to watch.” And then – gold.
TRIXIE Through this show I learned that sometimes things don’t feel funny [in the moment], but they are later. Sometimes we leave the set thinking, “Wow, I just walked in there and talked about my breakfast, and then I ruined the whole shoot.”
KATYA I’ll say, “Hey, Trixie, did you enjoy the filming? Aug: Osage County with me today?”
Part of the joy of watching is that you both have such infectious laughs.
KATYA I actually find the rate of jokes per minute this season overwhelming, just from the editing alone. I mean I never tell a joke. The things that [the editors] is associated through puns, and it goes so fast – bam, bam, bam, bam, bam! You are so talented.
TRIXIE Most of our stories never portray us as the smart person, the person who won, the person who did the right thing. If any, [they are] cautionary tales about what being human can bring. In the end, the editors make fun of it.
Are there stories you told each other that you still remember?
TRIXIE She told a story about being mistreated by a colonialist [reenactor] at school. Just the thought of it.
KATYA It was a traumatic event. Thank you for bringing this up.
TRIXIE When the lights are on and we all wear wigs, we feel invincible. It feels like we’re in a room where nobody would ever hear what we say anyway.
So now you’ve been nominated for an Emmy. Have you ever imagined what you would say in an acceptance speech – or do you have any idea what makes a good speech?
KATYA It all depends on the venue and the award. When it comes to the Oscars, it’s a whole thing and you have 40 seconds max. And if they don’t know who you are, you get 20 seconds.
TRIXIE One of our biggest annoyances is when people win big awards and don’t prepare anything. we hate this
KATYA You are one of five people! “Oh my goodness! I’m Cate Blanchett! I just had no idea I…” You knew, come on.
TRIXIE We’re looking at you, Jodie Foster in bed. And all awards shows have these comedic parts that aren’t funny. The way people present themselves is never funny. And if someone is actually a third party [of the way] The music penetrates her heartfelt speech hard and fast. I want to hear Jennifer Coolidge talk about all those years of taking small part-time jobs just to stay afloat! I don’t want to hear a host telling a lame joke about parking.
KATYA I think if I were to win an Oscar, I would walk up to the podium and say, “Thank you to the Academy for allowing me to be the real me,” and then rip off a prosthetic mask. Below that I’m Judi Dench. Short and sweet.
I’ve thought a lot about the political attacks on drag and queer people. Do you feel like your show is in any way a resistance to that?
KATYA I personally feel like Julianne Moore in the remake of carrie: “These are ungodly times.” I honestly believe the pendulum swings left to right. It’s so fascinating to see how these stupid, ignorant right-wing lawmakers have drawn themselves into this bony broth of paranoia and hatred at gunpoint.
TRIXIE People literally google pictures, search for “drag queen,” put a picture in a conservative news story, and say, “drag queens are groomers.” They did that to pictures of me! And nobody likes children more than me. No one! They end up giving us too much credit. None of us sit at the table at night wondering, “Whose kids should we take next?”
KATYA Or like: “Which child can I positively influence tomorrow?”
So you don’t volunteer to read to children in a library.
KATYA Oh my god, the worst mistake a drag queen has ever made.
TRIXIE I was taken to every sporting event. I never became athletic. But to answer your question, do you know how many people say this is the first drag they’ve seen? The show demystifies drag.
KATYA And you wouldn’t believe how many times we’ve heard about it [from] People who have cancer and we got through it through all the chemotherapy in the hospital. That’s the most wonderful over the top compliment we could ever get.
TRIXIE We are fortunate to work in the drag space because honestly we work on the final frontier.
KATYA “We’re first responders,” she’s trying to say.
TRIXIE We are on an equal footing with people performing cleft palate surgeries in the Middle East.
KATYA [The ranking is] us, and then there are Doctors Without Borders.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in a separate issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine in June. To get the magazine, Click here to login.