We're Here co-creators share 'terrifying', 'emotional' experience making season 4

Johnnie Ingram and Stephen Warren speak to Yahoo UK about tackling misinformation in the LGBTQ+ series

We're Here (Sky)
We're Here season 4 sees queens Sasha Velour (L), Latrice Royale (C), Priyanka (R) and Jaida Essence Hall visit towns in Tennessee and Oklahoma to help locals by putting on a drag show. (Sky)

We're Here is a show about love, both within yourself and within your community, but it's also about facing stigma and LGBTQ+ hate head on, which proved a "terrifying" and "emotional" experience when making the show's fourth season.

The HBO show —which lands on Sky on Sunday, 16 June— follows drag icons Sasha Velour, Jaida Essence Hall, Priyanka and Latrice Royale as they meet locals and help them and their community by putting on a drag show. Season 4 welcomed in the new hosts who visited Tennessee and Oklahoma, but while they were there to bring joy they were met with an astounding amount of backlash.

One encounter saw the queens speak with a father and daughter who called the queer community "a cult" and claimed drag artists perform "sexual acts" in front of children at their shows. This type of interaction, co-creators Johnnie Ingram and Stephen Warren say, was something they were keen to tackle onscreen as much as possible in order to start a conversation.

"It was terrifying," Ingram says of making the series. "For me, in particular, it was very emotional. I relate to Jaida [who left the conversation with the father and daughter] as I tend to start to break down a little bit, I need to distance myself from some conversations, especially if it's getting too [much] because my emotions just rise up.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - FEBRUARY 08: (L-R) Sasha Velour, Priyanka, Johnnie Ingram, Latrice Royale, Stephen Warren and Jaida Essence Hall attend Press Junket:
The queens and crew were met with backlash in both states, but co-creators Johnnie Ingram (centre left) and Stephen Warren (centre right) were keen to tackle it onscreen. (Getty Images)

"These confrontations were very, very difficult, they're very, very scary but they're happening across the country, we're just highlighting two places. There's a group of organised, extreme voices that are incredibly loud, but we learned they're moving from place to place, they're very small.

"I think it was important to expose that, especially to people living in these communities who may not know how small these voices are because they feel so overwhelmed with all the misinformation that's spreading online. To expose that, it's almost like exposing the evil wizard behind the curtain, like 'oh, it's just one person'."

Read more: We're Here queens don't want LGBTQ+ people to 'feel powerless' against hate

The hope is to invoke change by highlighting and fighting back against the increased level of misinformation and bigotry against the LGBTQ+ community that has led to anti-drag, anti-trans and anti-queer movements in the US.

We're Here (Sky)
'These confrontations were very, very difficult, they're very, very scary but they're happening across the country,' Johnnie Ingram said. (Sky)

Warren shared how he was shocked by some of the events in Tennessee, including a city council meeting which opened with the mayor saying a prayer.

"I realised you are in an environment in these places, and some of these small towns, where the culture has changed so much rules that once were sacrosanct are no longer sacrosanct," he explains. "That's scary and if I'm feeling that because of the invocation of prayer, and I feel stifled and I feel like I'm in a situation where I'm uncomfortable, that is what every queer person or anyone who is different lives with on a daily basis in these situations.

"There is a constant weight on your shoulders of having to battle this. I was particularly impressed —I couldn't have done it— with the way that Sasha was able to articulate so many complex thoughts and ideas, and answers to the absolute lies and insane talking points of this father [and] daughter.

"It's insanity that's spewing out of their mouths. The fact that she was able to address these points one by one is something that I think needs to be seen around the world."

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 15: (L-R) Johnnie Ingram and Stephen Warren attend the HBO's 2024 Post-Emmy reception at San Vicente Bungalows on January 15, 2024 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage)
Stephen Warren said he was 'impressed' with the queens for the way they handled people spouting hateful rhetoric and misinformation about the LGBTQ+ community while making the show. (WireImage)

"I think there is this narrative of protecting children," Warren adds. "So what we did this season is we did family friendly drag shows. There's all kinds of drag shows all kinds of drag artists, we love it all, but there is a whole conversation of misinformation that we're really tackling this season.

"If we really focus on the things that we have in common I think you would really see that we all want to protect children, we also want to protect queer children. The ones that maybe don't even know that they're queer yet, [and show] that there is a life after adolescence where you can thrive and be openly LGBTQ+ and have a wonderful career.

"I think that is really the objective of our community, and there's so much misinformation that is spreading online and in communities that this is, hopefully, one way to show the locals that they have the power if they show up in these spaces, because we are much stronger in numbers."

We're Here (Sky)
We're Here introduces new queens who took the baton from Bob the Drag Queen, Shangela and Eureka, who were hosts of the first three seasons. (Sky)

The first three seasons of We're Here featured Bob the Drag Queen, Shangela and Eureka as hosts, but it was time to make a change in season 4. Though Warren asserts how they "love" the show's original hosts and always will, they realised that they needed to do something different.

"Times are changing and we needed to expand the We're Here family because we needed to tell more stories and the best way to tell more stories is to bring new people and their own personal journeys into the mix," Warren says. "So we looked for people that have the most important elements that Bob, Shangela and Eureka had, which is intelligence, empathy and a genuine authenticity to themselves.

"We found we were looking for people that would gel together and our expectations were lower than that, when we first saw them all together we realised we had something special.

"They realised that they are inheriting the responsibility and the mantle of what has gone before them and so they they thought very carefully about how they wanted to put all their efforts in, and all of their love. So the truth is we love them all and they each brought separate things."

We're Here (Sky)
Stephen Warren shared that they made the change because 'times are changing and we needed to expand the We're Here family because we needed to tell more stories'. (Sky)

Ingram adds: "In We're Here we never have a Fab 5 or anything like that, there's no format point to the cast, but what was really about was that point of view of of being a drag mother.

"Sasha can really face anyone who's spewing misinformation and can just shut it down right there on the spot, that was just so compelling to watch. Latrice, who just has so much rich history and has been doing drag for longer, has so much to share and has a wonderful personality.

"Jaida has a giant heart and Priyanka is our first queen that comes from Canada, so we get that point of view. That was very, very fun and unique. So I think this new cast just really brought a new energy, but also it was about expanding our family because we genuinely, truly love all of our We're Here family."

We're Here (Sky)
We're Here sees the queens create a conversation around the rise in anti-LGBTQ+ laws, views, and sentiment in the political and public sphere. (Sky)

What the queens were able to do well is help create a conversation around the rise in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, tackling things like the queer community being used in a culture war in both the political and public sphere. In the past the queens would visit several states per season to do this, but in Season 4 this changed — instead the hosts split time between just Tennessee and Oklahoma.

"I'm from Tennessee so this this season hits close to home in particular," Ingram shares of the decision. "Not only has Tennessee become one of the most extreme voices in the anti-LGBTQ, anti-drag, anti-trans movement, but that's where my family still lives. So to be able to tell these stories full circle was very emotional and very important.

"Part of the concept of the show is celebrity drag queens, bringing them into the spaces often we have left in hopes to have a dialogue, and a conversation to open hearts and minds. This has now evolved into [conversations about] our rights being put up for grabs again in each state.

"States have been rolling back all of our rights based on misinformation, and that's spreading across the country so I think we made a collective decision as we've always really wanted a little more in-depth storytelling from all of these episodes, so this was our [way] to meet the moment."

We're Here (Sky)
Johnnie Ingram shared: 'States have been rolling back all of our rights based on misinformation, and that's spreading across the country... so this was our [way] to meet the moment.' (Sky)

He goes on: "For a month we moved to Tennessee, for a month we moved to Oklahoma, and we really got to know the the community, we got to know both sides of the conversation.

"We were really struggling in the past to get folks to sit down and have a dialogue with us, for some reason this season —I think because it has become much more of a political conversation— people have been more than happy to voice their opinions. I think what we were really hoping to do is find those folks so we can target that misinformation."

The season is also dedicated to Nex Benedict, a non-binary teen from Oklahoma who died by suicide after an altercation with their schoolmates in February and whose family said they were being bullied for their gender identity. The second half of the show was filmed near to Nex's hometown, and Ingram shares how important it for them to pay tribute.

"Our hearts go out to Nex's family our hearts go to the LGBTQ2S community," he says. "It's been very important to us, even from our very first season, to elevate all LGBTQ voices and two-spirit voices and to help people understand that we've been here since the beginning of time and that words hurt.

"This legislation, these anti LGBTQ bills, these ordinances, they all directly funnel down and create real struggles for real people, but in the worst case scenario even death. So it was so important for us to honour Nex and carry Nex's voice."

We're Here Season 4 premieres on Sunday, 17 June on Sky Max and NOW.