‘We’re Here’ Season 4: New Drag Queens, New Format, Old-Fashioned Bigotry

They’re here. They’re queer.

After three seasons of dragging their charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent city-to-city across America, the team behind “We’re Here” realized a drastic change was needed. And not just for the sake of Season 4.

Not only have Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka! O’Hara and Shangela been replaced (be it for Madonna tours, assault allegations or none of the above) by fellow “Drag Race” icons Jaida Essence Hall, Priyanka, Sasha Velour and Latrice Royale, the new episodes only take place in two heartland locales — Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Tulsa, Okla. — as opposed to the usual one town per episode operation.

That change in schedule and format allows the cast and crew to spend more time in each of the communities; an astonishing four weeks rather than just one. That means the audience gets to see more of their drag kids’ life stories, but also that the unkindlier conservatives in town can’t just grin and bear their presence for a couple of days before going back to their ungodly ways.

After filming their fourth season, creators Stephen Warren, Johnnie Ingram and fellow EP Peter LoGreco said that living proudly as a 2SLGBTQIA+ person (Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Androgynous/Asexual, Plus Sign) is actually harder today than when the show first premiered four years ago in April 2020. In fact, Warren said they experienced “some of the most heinous, horrible speech” they’ve ever encountered.

“Because the world has shifted so dramatically in a dangerous way, we realized this year we needed to expand the ‘We’re Here’ family,” Warren told TheWrap. “We needed to do this in order to bring more points of view and more stories from our drag queens — and the drag kids — to be presented to the world, so that the more the world is exposed to different drag queens and different queer people, the more you feel connected to the community at large.”

“I do believe that the majority of folks in these places have their hearts in the right place and love does conquer hate,” Ingram added. “What we’re really facing this season, in particular, is just the misinformation that’s being spread about our community.”

Jaida Essence Hall, Priyanka and Sasha Velour in "We're Here" Season 4
Jaida Essence Hall, Priyanka and Sasha Velour in “We’re Here” Season 4

“The anti-trans legislation affects trans folks in small towns that maybe don’t have a lot of power in their community. How can we help them help themselves by making a difference locally?” he continued. “So we chose to spend three hours instead of one hour in one place. It’s risky any time you change the format of a show, but … I think it was a great move.”

Showrunner and director LoGreco concurred, saying, “From the end of 2019 to now in 2023-24, the situation has actually gotten more difficult in many places because whatever kind of discrimination or anti-LGBTQ sentiment might have existed culturally has translated into institutional legislation and empowered a whole different level of rhetoric around trans people, queer people [and] drag queens that feels extremely divisive and hateful. It was really important to go directly to the places where this was most on people’s minds.”

“We’d already been to Texas and Florida … and Tennessee — as we were developing this season — actually went to the level of passing a drag ban, whether or not it was constitutional. In further research, we found that there was a tremendous amount going on in Oklahoma,” he added. “So we started on a state-wide level this season, whereas in the past, we really started with personal journeys.”

And while the people behind-the-scenes were well aware of the bigoted rhetoric sweeping the nation, the stars in front of the camera came face-to-face with the hate like never before, too.

“How different the world is, [from] even when they were filming Season 3. There’s so much louder, more present opposition to drag than ever before — not ever, ever before, but certainly in the last decade,” Velour recalled. “There’s been increasing excitement around drag and that hasn’t stopped. But now there’s this other side that is excited about shutting down all the drag shows in the country. We were contending with that for the first time.”

Latrice Royale on Season 4 of "We're Here"
Latrice Royale on Season 4 of “We’re Here”

“With this new format, you really get to find out exactly what the story is in the community. You get to see multiple facets of the queer people in the community, what they’re experiencing. Even some of the people in the community that don’t know anybody queer, what their ideas and experiences are because so many people are open and candid,” Essence Hall said. “The longer format just feels better. It’s more enriching and more honest to the story of what’s happening.”

But as Priyanka, the original “Canada’s Drag Race” winner, put it, “It doesn’t really matter where you’re from, because all queer people are struggling.”

“When we’re there, we make more impact than we think we do. I keep in touch with all my drag daughters and you often hear how much things have changed,” she noted. “So baby steps, small movements here and there. But this season in particular, we’re going to see a really, really big change.”

Drag bans, counter-protests, arrest threats and even literal bullets weren’t enough to keep the foursome and their drag offspring from using their superpowers for good in a pair of places that needed it most (Royale and Essence Hall tag out halfway through when production switches states).

“It was shocking to see people hold onto their views rather than entertain the idea that they might be wrong,” Royale said. “We’re going to keep on pushing because we’re not going to let you just keep saying all this fake, false misinformation.”

From helping a straight man connect with his queer children to ushering a trans woman into her true identity; from encouraging a two-spirit leader into returning home to making a gay female impersonator feel safe in his own home; from A to Z, these members of the alphabet mafia can do it all.

Plus, they’ve got the Emmys (4), GLAAD Media Awards (3) and Peabody to show for it.

Priyanka, Jaida Essence Hall and Sasha Velour in "We're Here" Season 4
Priyanka, Jaida Essence Hall and Sasha Velour in “We’re Here” Season 4

Whether you’re merely capable of putting up with queer people for a week, or you’re someone who embraces the idea of welcoming queer folk into your neighborhood and/or television sets for a month at a time, the next six episodes of “We’re Here” are proof that drag queens and their faithful allies aren’t going away anytime soon.

Get used to it.

“We’re Here” Season 4 airs Fridays on HBO, with new episodes available to stream on Max.

The post ‘We’re Here’ Season 4: New Drag Queens, New Format, Old-Fashioned Bigotry appeared first on TheWrap.