Trixie Mattel Says 'Moving Parts' Documentary Is a Snapshot of the Golden Age of Drag (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
World of Wonder
Known to many as a former contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race and subsequent winner of All-Stars season three, Trixie Mattel, whose real name is Brian Firkus, has quickly proved himself to be a performer with many wigs and plenty of staying power.
But for all his recent success, there are plenty of unexpected moments captured in the new film, Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts, which documents the many ups and downs of Firkus' personal journey to superstardom as he navigates the biggest year of his drag career -- prepping for his first national tour, promoting RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars and taping the Viceland season of The Trixie and Katya Show.
"Last year was the most dynamic with super, super highs and super, super lows every other day and obviously some parts of the story are definitely uncomfortable to relive," Firkus tells ET by phone ahead of the film’s world premiere on Thursday, April 25 at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. The screening will be followed by a live performance with the star.
Some of those uncomfortable moments seen in the film revolve around his professional relationship with friend and UNHhhh co-host, Katya Zamolodchikova (Brian McCook), who is seen having a mental crisis during the taping of The Trixie and Katya Show.
Originally onset of the show to film B-roll "of me and my best friend doing our favorite thing" for the documentary, "in true drag fashion, nothing goes as planned," Firkus says. "Everything got very real, very fast."
While McCook and Firkus are close friends, Firkus admits there's no handbook in dealing with that situation. "It was that balancing act of how do you be a great friend in this moment? And watching it back on camera, there's sort of a stillness. And it's a room full of people going, 'What do we do?' Because there's no quick fix in that situation.”
Later, Firkus reveals, he and McCook sat down and watched the footage together early in the editing process, adding that it was important to both of them that what was seen in the film is how it was in the room.
Covered in the press at the time, McCook left the show to enter rehab for a yearlong departure from drag while Firkus is seen in the film left to face his own career anxieties. "I had to think for the first time, If I'm by myself, do people care about watching me?" Firkus recalls. "It's actually kind of sad to watch myself think about it knowing what I know now and that four months later Brian and I were already rebuilding."
Taking control of the situation, Firkus continued on, recasting Katya with Bob the Drag Queen (Christopher Caldwell) to finish out the season. In the film, he is also seen facing down questions about McCook while trying to promote his season of All-Stars and managing fans' expectations of him as a performer both on and off the series. "Sometimes you just have to be the person who grips the wheel," he says.
But for all the darker moments of Firkus' journey, there are the happier ones, from the performer paying off his mother's overdue bills to winning All-Stars. “I’m so proud of myself,” he says of being able to watch those fleeting moments back.
"I’m really happy it's a scrapbook in a way that's not a Trixie Mattel commercial," Firkus says of the film overall. "On a micro level, it's a snapshot of a gay artist succeeding, and on a macro level, it's a snapshot of a golden age of drag."
Over the past decade, the world of drag has risen from the shadows of fringe gay culture to mainstream success in large part due to RuPaul's Drag Race, which finally won the Emmy for Outstanding Reality-Competition program in 2018 and has created a platform for many contestants to make the leap from lip-syncing at clubs to performing artist, musician, fashion muse, talk show host, or actor on scripted TV, film and Broadway.
While Firkus says that "drag is a bubble that's gotten really big and is in danger of popping," he doesn't believe that it'll be a blip in the pop culture radar. "I think the business has changed so much that the profile of a successful drag queen has changed a lot," he says. "You have this window to create your own fans."
For Firkus, that has been channeling his roots in American folk music into the release of two albums, Two Birds and One Stone, and owning that he and Dolly Parton are "the only two drag queens in folk music," he jokes. Not only that, but UNHhhh has returned for a fourth season on YouTube with McCook back as co-host and Firkus can be heard voicing a RuPaul-inspired character on Netflix's animated series, Super Drags.
If anyone is creating an empire emulating the inspiration of it all -- Drag Race creator and host RuPaul -- it is Firkus aka Trixie Mattel, who says he has his next two years planned. "But, Mama, the god of drag is going to be throwing wrenches at those plans the entire time," Firkus quips, before summing it up best: "I think what this documentary shows best is that on paper, there’s a master plan. But in the moment, it's me juggling chainsaws."