Rhys Nicholson on ‘grim’ Drag Race Down Under we almost saw


Rhys Nicholson on the judging panel of RuPaul's Drag Race Down Under
Image: Stan

Drag Race Down Under judge Rhys Nicholson has said an Australia-New Zealand version of the franchise was in the works for much longer than we all realised.

The newly-retitled Drag Race Down Under is set to return for season four in a few months.

Earlier this year, it was confirmed RuPaul was exiting and Michelle Visage and Rhys were taking over in a big shake-up for the show.

Rhys Nicholson has confirmed that before the show as we know it started, there were previous attempts that apparently tried to muck with the format.

“They’d been trying to make a Drag Race Down Under for years,” Rhys told New Zealand radio station Newstalk ZB.

“I remember maybe six or seven years ago, my agent getting a call about it. It was by a different production company.

“No one really could work it out. I think because it was still vaguely new. It had maybe had seven seasons in America.

“I think TV studios over here and in New Zealand – bless them – still hadn’t quite worked out what made Drag Race good.

“Another production company [was] trying to work on it. They were trying to make it almost like a kind of Married at First Sight-style kind of filming.

“We’re just obsessed with making what I would describe as quite grim TV, turning something good into something quite grim.

“There was this kind of call around. I remember having a conversation with a producer about it. Then it just went away.”

‘RuPaul saw your stand-up and has picked you’

Years later, RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under would finally go into production in New Zealand at the height of the pandemic, when Rhys got the call.

The first season debuted on Australian streaming service Stan in 2021.

“My agent called me during COVID, and said, ‘They’re looking at making a Drag Race Down Under. You’re on the long list,'” Rhys Nicholson recalled.

“This is a good agent, I think. She said, ‘But I’ve seen the list. I wouldn’t get your hopes up too much.’ I thought maybe I’ll get to be on a challenge in a few years.

“Then on a Sunday morning at about 8am I got a call from my agent. That’s never good news, when you get a weekend call. Usually they’re still asleep.

“I remember thinking, oh, no, they found the tweets or something like that. It’s all over.

“She called and said that he’d picked me. I didn’t know what she meant. She said, ‘RuPaul saw your stand-up and has picked you and you’re you’re doing the show.’

“This was during deep COVID as well. Two weeks later, I was in New Zealand, sitting on the panel next to RuPaul.”

Michelle Visage is the new RuPaul

Rhys has been a permanent judge on Drag Race Down Under ever since.

For season four, Michelle and Rhys will be joined by celebrity guests as well as previous Down Under queens.

“The big news around it this time is that Ru’s not there. This year, it’s Michelle Visage as the new RuPaul,” Rhys said.

“There was all these rumors for years that Ru wasn’t there. Now we can prove that he was there because when he’s not there, he announces it.”

RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under will stream on Stan later this year.

More on Drag Race Down Under:

Ru-vealed: Ten queens rumoured for Drag Race Down Under season 4

Kween Kong and Art Simone give us their Drag Race Down Under advice

Willam blasts Michelle Visage hosting Down Under

US Drag Race winner flew to Auckland to film Down Under

Drag Race Down Under star tipped to return for new Global All Stars

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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