Thom Filicia On Inhabiting Jackie Would & Shocking Carson Kressley

Jackie Would strutted onto the RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race stage this season and the secret she was sitting on had a twist-she was former Queer Eye for the Straight Guy cast member Thom Filicia, also a close friend of judge Carson Kressley. While Jackie has departed the competition, Filicia had the time of his life diving into the world of drag for the first time. We sat down to chat about the creation of Jackie Would, the Queer Eye legacy, and what Carson Kressley’s reaction truly was.

Michael Cook: For so many little boys out there, you and the original cast of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy showed us that there was a whole world filled with fellow gay tastemakers the we could aspire to be like on your groundbreaking show.

Thom Filicia: That is so funny, we still get that today. I was just telling someone, that it is amazing to me. I was just traveling to Florida this week and someone came up to me when they were going from high school into college and they let me know that we really made it possible for them to feel comfortable in their skin and with their family and in schools with their friends that were straight. It is amazing to hear that.

MC: What made you take a turn as Jackie Would on RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race?

TF: When the request came in for Secret Celebrity Drag Race, it was going to be a surprise for Carson (Kressley) and I thought that was hilarious. Also, it was for charity and I was able to do it for the bone marrow foundation. I did a bone marrow transplant with my brother and I thought that was something to bring awareness to. I think back in the day when I was asked to do Queer Eye, it went through my head like, at that time, doing that was like “Are you going to do this? You are going to step up and be recognized in this way and represent this”. I said to myself, “I am going to do this; if it gets any legs, it will be a really great thing” It ended up getting legs and it was a great thing!

MC: So it sounds like stepping out of your comfort zone is truly what part of the attraction to doing the show was, is that fair to say?

TF: Nothing I’ve been asked to do since Queer Eye has felt as much like that since this came in. I think when you see people do something that is not their typical wheelhouse, it is a form of acceptance, embracing and participating; you are breaking boundaries and opening the dialogue. Opening things up and making people feel comfortable and making things approachable and making other people realize that all of these things that we compartmentalize don’t need to be so compartmentalized. I think that is what really what hooked me into it, and of course the surprise to Carson was kinda fun!

MC: Is this the first time you personally dove into the world of drag?

TF: I had never been in drag. I never thought I would do drag, it never crossed my mine, even doing it for Halloween; it’s like then you’re in it all night. It was always like “I don’t know”. I’d never done it, never really thought about it or thought that would be my jam. I have have to tell you, it was so much fun and I loved it. What I realized is that it’s good to know what you’re great at and now what you’re good at, and I know im not great at it and it was so much fun! That was sort of the personality of the character that I created too. Jackie Would was slightly classy, and very brassy!

MC: It must’ve been so surreal sitting here with the queens that you revere and have watched and you are now getting to work with and be mentored by them as a performer!

TF: It really was. For whatever reason, I really hoped that Jujubee was my drag mom and she was! I don’t even know when I said it, they asked if I had queen I really liked, and I said that there was something about Jujubee that I always liked. I liked him when he is him and when he is her; I’ve seen him both ways. She’s always just super chill and appears that she is not taking it too seriously, and it is always very natural and intuitive and I like that. It doesn’t feel super forced. I was thinking that I wouldn’t be great, so that is going to be my role model. Someone who works really hard, is really committed, but is also there to enjoy the process and the journey.

MC: So looking back at inhabiting Jackie Would, do you think you delivered a fully realized character?

TF: I think what Jackie really focused on was having fun backstage with everybody else, being supportive, and enjoying it. I was backstage looking at the others going “Are you serious you have your tour bus out back”! I was more of a cheerleader for everyone else. I will tell you, I was much more comfortable backstage and I think if I had been on a little bit longer I would have gotten there; I was just getting comfortable in the environment being judged and trying to make choreographers, hair and makeup, wigs, and wardrobe all happy (laughs)! I was also there to support the process, work really hard and do the best I could. I wanted Jackie to be a non threatening super fun life of the party that if someone is floundering and doesn’t know everyone, she brings them into the group; she is that person. She is more concerned about the collective than herself.

MC: Was the Jackie Would we saw on-stage the initial character concept?

TF: We had to come up with a concept, and my first one was Anita Prosecco, but it was too literal. Then I landed on Jackie Would, which was more playful. When they asked “Who is Jackie Would”? I said that she grew up in a suburb outside of Chicago. She can scrape the ice off of her car window, but she would probably make a cocktail out of it. I wanted her to be that kind of person. I said she lived in Aspen and went on a ski trip and got so drunk on the airplane, that she’s not allowed to fly anymore so she just moved there. She was with her best girlfriends to find a rich guy and was over served, made a spectacle, and when her friends left, she just took up residency! That is Jackie’s backstory; I gave them the concept and I let them build Jackie. I put a lot of trust in them to take the Jackie I gave the and make her more approachable and hilarious and not severe. I wanted her to be the person that if you walk into a cocktail party, she is the person you want to talk to!

MC: So you truly think Secret Celebrity Drag Race judge (and former Queer Eye cast mate) Carson Kressley had absolutely no idea that you were the person inhabiting Jackie Would?

TF: I know for a fact he didn’t, we’ve talked about it. He had no idea, we really kept it secret. No one really even knew that I did it. My manager knew and I really told no one, but two of my closest friends that I travel with knew and I trust them implicitly. I knew it was fun, but I took it very seriously in terms of keeping it a secret. As for Carson, the one moment of him going “What”? That is what it is all about. I thought that he would know immediately, but he told me that of every single person in the world that he knows or would do it, I am the last person he thought would do it! He knew I was familiar, but he was going through the list of people that were familiar and I was not on the list!

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