The series will see Brooke Lynn, along with fellow judges Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman and Stacey McKenzie, preside over 12 of the Great White North's finest queens as they compete for a cash prize of $100,000 and the title of Canada's Next Drag Superstar. For non-Canadians, don't worry about being confused by any new slang.
"I think it's just more pronunciation. 'A-boot,' 'sorr-ee,' 'aye,'" Brooke Lynn told ET's Brice Sander. Ahead of the show's premiere, she revealed how her judging style is different from RuPaul and discussed sending queens home and debuting during these uncertain times: "This is my life now," she joked. "Drag from the waist up in my living room."
ET: Talk to me about how this show came into your life, because you are the first Ru Girl to make the transition to behind the judges' table.
Brooke Lynn Hytes: That's just crazy to think about. In 11 seasons, I'm the first one, which is amazing. The first time I'd even thought about it or talked to anybody about it was right after we filmed season 11 of RuPaul's Drag Race, and I was in the World of Wonder offices just talking with them about shows I could maybe do on WOW Presents Plus. I said, "You know, I would really love it if there was a Canada's Drag Race. I know that's a long shot, it's never going to happen but I'm just saying it. I'm putting into the universe. It would be so fun."
And they were like, "Ha ha ha, yeah, maybe one day. We'll see," just kind of shrugged it off and I didn’t think anymore about it. Then, right after the finale, my agent calls me and he was like, "So, there's going to be a Canada's Drag Race and they want to know if you would be a judge." My jaw just, like, dropped in my apartment. I could not believe it. I was so gagged that this was actually happening and happening right after the finale had finished. Because I was like, "Oh great, well, what am I going to do now? I guess I'll go back on All Stars.” And then this plopped in my lap. And I could not be more grateful or excited to be chosen to do this.
On Canada's Drag Race, there's no Ru. Behind that desk, you're the drag queen. What kind of pressure is that?
It's a lot of pressure! I think the important thing to realize is I am not RuPaul. I'm not trying to be RuPaul. I could never be RuPaul. As soon as I realized that in myself, I was like, "I'm just going to go and I'm going to be Brooke Lynn and I'm going to do what Brooke Lynn does and that's going to work." So that's what I did. And it worked out really well. I was just myself and had a really, really good time doing it. And it was so amazing to do it with Jeffrey and Stacey together. I could not have asked for better co-judges to judge this with me.
You're going to have Canadian icons coming to guest judge, too. Who left you the most gagged? Like, "I cannot believe I'm sitting here and this person's next to me."
So many! I mean, Deborah Cox, for one, is just, like, incredible. I've loved her forever. I made her sing for me. We were sitting between takes and I was like, "Can you just sing something?" She would start singing Whitney Houston for me, which was lovely. Amanda Brugel, incredible. I had never met her before and she was just the loveliest, loveliest woman. I think the funniest judge we had -- just because it was such a fish out of water -- would have to be Tom Green, because I was like, "What?" [Laughs] He's the sweetest, nicest man, but he was like, "Where am I?" And I was like, "Where are you? Why are you here, Tom?" I’m not mad about it, I just want to know how this happened.
I'm interested to see that, because there's a lot going on up there.
He's an oddball. There's a lot going on up there, but he was just lovely. All of the judges were. And it was so cool, because they were all such fans of the show and were all so excited to be there and be a part of it. It was just such a fun working environment every week. There was no diva behavior. There was no, "Ugh, I have to do this." Everybody was ready to go. We had judges cry when they walked on the main stage. It was a very emotional experience for everyone. It was like visiting Mecca.
Which is harder: Competing on the show or judging the show?
Oh, competing. [Laughs] For sure.
Would you ever want to go back and compete, now knowing the judges' side of things?
I don't know that it would make sense. Like, definitely not while I'm a judge. I kind of feel like I've moved beyond competing a little bit in this moment in time. I don't think it would make any sense for me to go back while Canada's Drag Race is still going on. But never say never. If I had to go back and compete, I would. I just don’t think it's going to be any time soon.
Did RuPaul give you any advice before you dove into this experience?
The last time I saw him was at the Emmys last year, and I forgot to ask him for advice because he's RuPaul and I was like, "Hi! It's great to see you. I love you!" I just forgot. It slipped my mind. So many things were going on. I did ask Michelle for some advice though. And Michelle -- she's an amazing, amazing judge -- and she said, "Just see yourself in the contestants and be honest." So that's what I did. I tried to give very constructive criticism when it was necessary and some of them were harsh but it never came from a mean place and I always made sure that was very evident.
It was always from a place of wanting to help them be better. And then I got so excited when I would see someone do well or when I would see someone wear a fierce look. And I made sure to let them know how excited I was at how well they were doing. I know that as a contestant, you just want the approval. You want them to say, "You did a really good job," because you're trying so hard. So, I know what that feels like when you get a good compliment from the judges.
So, would you say your judging style is most similar to Michelle's?
A little bit. I think I'm a mix of all of them, because I definitely gave critiques but I also gave a lot of enthusiastic praise. I feel like I was pretty well-rounded. There was a little bit of Michelle peppered in there with some Carson and some Ru and some Ross. I just threw them all in a blender and this is what happened.
Michelle comes to play as a guest judge on Canada's Drag Race. What is it like bringing her on Canadian turf and having her read the girls?
Oh, so good. It's honestly like a masterclass. Michelle's the GOAT. She is so, so, so good at her job. The thing with TV is you have a certain amount of time and there was so much I wanted to say to the girls every week that a lot of times when you were giving critiques, you would just ramble, just talk and talk. And they were like, "OK, we gotta wrap it up. We can't use any of that." They need a nice soundbite that they can use. And Michelle is so good at saying exactly what she wanted to say in this perfect tight, tidy little soundbite box. It was so cool to watch her do that and be like, that's what I need to work on in my judging style. She's great. Her critiques are amazing. She had, like, a page of notes for each girl. I'm like, "How, do you have time to write all these down?" [Laughs]
We're going to get a lot of what we know and love about RuPaul's Drag Race on Canada's Drag Race. We'll see maxi challenges we know. We'll get mini challenges. What's going to surprise us about Canada's Drag Race? What's different?
I think the biggest difference is the fact that Ru isn't there and that you have Stacey, Jeffrey and myself. I think that's really the biggest difference. Everything else is very much the same formula, the show that you know and love. We have a lot of the same challenges. We have Snatch Game and other things like that. And I will say Snatch Game is the episode. I'm so excited for everyone to see that episode, because they absolutely killed it. It was so good.
Did they pick a lot of Canadian superstars to portray?
No, actually they did not. Smart. [Laughs] I was just blown away, because I was really nervous for them. I had a little PTSD going into it, and they were just incredible. They did such a good job and I was so proud after that episode. I was like, "Wow, you all really proved yourselves here." Because that's the episode everyone watches for.
What surprised you the most about this experience?
I think the hardest thing was I didn't realize how hard it would be to send somebody home. That was surprisingly difficult. My evil part of me was like, "Oh, this is going to be fun." And then it happened and I was like, "This sucks!" Especially that first week, the first time we had to do it, oh man. I actually cried the next day. I was in my dressing room the next day and one of the producers came and was like, "How are you feeling?" And I was like, [Sobbing] "I'm fine!" Because I get it. I know how hard they worked. I know how much money they spent. I get it, I get it, I get it. But it got easier as time went on. It was just that first week was a hard one for me.
Do you and your co-judges have equal power without there being a Ru on the panel? Are the three of you a triumvirate?
Exactly, yeah. No one has more power than anybody else. Everything is very much a democracy. We make every decision together and sometimes those decisions are quick and sometimes those decisions take an hour. But we have lists, we have lists of pros and cons and pie graphs and charts and everything you can think of. We really take it all very seriously, which I think we need to. This is not a joke to us and we take our decisions extremely seriously.
If you had to boil Canada's Drag Race down to one word, what is it?