Rhys Nicholson spills on awkward lunch with RuPaul and Michelle Visage: 'Stressful'

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After a successful first season last year, RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under is set to return for season two later this month with Rhys Nicholson back on the judging panel alongside RuPaul and Michelle Visage.

Chatting with Yahoo Lifestyle about what fans can expect this time around, the Australian comedian spilled on the new cast, celebrity guest judges and behind-the-scenes moments during filming.

Rhys Nicholson on RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under.
Rhys Nicholson opens up about season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under and what fans can expect. Photo: Stan

The Queens

Rhys explains that season two will bear similarities to what viewers watched last year, but there is “a lot of evolution”.

“I think what's great about this year is that the queens that we have, they're not the most famous queens yet and they’re not the most established queens that we have in our two countries,” he shares.

“So they're a little bit - and I mean this in a very loving and respectful way - some of them are like, rough, and that's what we do in Australia and New Zealand. Down Under drag is a bit rough and ready, so I'm very excited for people to get to meet them.”

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He adds that he had an awareness of some of the contestants before filming, including Molly Poppinz who is from his hometown of Newcastle, but it was exciting getting to see the queens shine on the main stage.

“There were queens that I had never heard of before and that's kind of the thrill of it, like having no context for someone and to see them either lip sync for the first time or do a challenge for the first time,” he says.

“Especially, without giving anything away, we have a few more acting challenges and stuff this year. If a girl’s a bit quiet and then suddenly they just deliver a performance, it’s thrilling. They're all wildly talented this year.”

Judging Style

Speaking about his style of judging alongside RuPaul and Michelle, Rhys compares himself to Paula Abdul on American Idol.

“I'm deeply obsessed with drag,” he says. “And so I kind of think of myself as like the Paula Abdul of the group in that I'm not going to say anything mean.

“I'm going to maybe be a bit catty about things but I'm never going to mention like, ‘That eye isn’t right’. I made a choice pretty early on that I'm never going to give the type of feedback that’s structural or gown-based - unless it's like, ‘That doesn't fit you, why are you wearing that?’.”

Rhys believes that in addition to making RuPaul laugh, his role on the show is to make sure the queens are genuine and they feel comfortable.

“This sounds really wanky, but I kind of think of myself as like a conduit for the audience, if that makes sense,” he continues. “Like I'm the one in the room going, ‘Oh my god, this is Drag Race, isn't that crazy?’.

“Because the other two are there to pretty hardcore critique and make sure that they're being put through their paces, and I'm kind of there to make them know and understand how incredible it is that they're on the show.”

RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under season two cast.
‘I'm kind of there to make them know and understand how incredible it is that they're on the show.’ Photo: Stan

Relationship with RuPaul

Unlike season one, this year’s season of Drag Race was filmed outside of lockdown in New Zealand which allowed for Rhys to enjoy more time off-camera with RuPaul and Michelle.

He says that they had plenty of lunches together during filming, but there was one particular outing that he remembers being “so stressful”.

“One day I picked a restaurant for Michelle and I to go to and I didn't know that she had invited everyone else,” he recalls.

“And I got there and Ru arrived and I suddenly just realised I’d picked a restaurant for Ru to come to. And, you know, she's a millionaire and I'd picked like a kind of good but dingy seafood place.

“The first thing that happened was she sat down and she went, ‘So why did we come here?’. And Michelle just pointed at me and was like, ‘They picked it!’. It was like, Jesus Christ, but everyone had a good time luckily.”

Rhys went on to say that the banter between RuPaul and Michelle is “wild” when the cameras aren’t rolling.

“Names get dropped that you’re like, what? I don't mean that they say shady things about anyone, but just people that they're having casual conversations about,” he reveals. “They do have a shorthand with each other.”

RuPaul on RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under.
Rhys says he spent more time off-camera with RuPaul this season than he did last year. Photo: Stan

Snatch Game and Guest Judges

While he doesn’t reveal anything about this season’s Snatch Game, Rhys says that his favourite impersonations are those of celebrities who are a bit more unknown.

“I think one of the best Snatch Games ever was Jinkx [Monsoon] when she played Little Edie,” he shares.

“There’s a freedom in playing someone that isn't hugely famous or someone that people don't know really well. I've always thought, I don't know why people don't do more old Hollywood icons.

“If you're going to be Beyoncé, how do you make Beyoncé funny? Like she's perfect. It feels like every season of every franchise there's always one queen that just forgets it's about jokes. That's a great wig that you've brought and you sound exactly like her, but that was not funny.”

Rhys also remains tight-lipped about which celebrities will feature on this season and follow in the footsteps of Kylie Minogue, The Veronicas and Olivia Newton-John, who appeared on the show last year via video link.

However, he asserts that there will “definitely” be more in-person judges this time around that fans will simply have to tune in to see.

The brand new season of the Stan Original Series RuPaul's Drag Race Down Under will premiere Saturday July 30.

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