‘No, that’s never going to work’: why Courtney Act rejected the idea for her TV pilot

There’s a twist in Courtney Act’s new celebrity interview show, which is part of Ten’s Pilot Showcase. Before teasing the guest’s life journey, the host with most of them dresses in drag.

your show Courtney’s Closet is part of Ten’s Pilot Showcase. Give me the elevator pitch that got you that slot. The idea came from when I was in Alice Springs and busy The project† I was in drag, it was 40 degrees, I was in a zoo, it was hot and sweaty and the autocue was delayed. It was all very challenging. And then on the plane on the way back, Hunter [Smith]the producer and writer on The project, was like, hey, I got this idea for a show. And I was like, noThat’s never going to work, I’ve already tried that, doesn’t work. I don’t like that idea. And a few days later he was like, so I mentioned it to people and they really liked the idea… and I was like, no… I’ve tried dragging people before, it doesn’t work, it’s really awkward. And then he thought: Ten really like it and they bring it to the pilot, and I was like, oh fineI’ll have to make it right.

Courtney Act in Courtney’s Closet.Credit:

Making it right is often the hardest part. How did you handle that? What I didn’t realize was that the other times I’d tried it, it was a Christmas special, with songs and guests and stuff, and I put Jonnie Peacock, the Paralympic, in drag. At the beginning of the show, it happened in a locker room, someone else did it, and there was the big reveal at the end. I did not like it. But the point is, this show is an interview show. The whole show is about this one thing. The idea is that I talk to my guests, perhaps to bring out the childhood inspiration that they were never able to convey as adults, or the things they loved. You know, Luke (McGregor, subject of the pilot episode) has an economics degree, he likes it Ghostbusters, he likes all these things. And I was like, I want the drag I create to really reflect who the person is.

So despite being forced to do the show, you eventually got into it. I came by, and I’m glad I did because…I think as a drag artist in the corporate world I’ll often have several gigs where you’ll have a straight version of what a drag queen likes or acts like. So it was really important to me that this was an authentic representation of drag and the queer side of life. I didn’t want a makeup mirror with a feather boa dangling over it — I was really focused on getting a lot of queer people involved in the creative process to make sure it was really authentic.

Courtney Act with guest Luke McGregor.

Courtney Act with guest Luke McGregor.Credit:

Do you feel that putting someone in the drag context is a good way to get to the depths of a person? I think it reveals things. The great thing about drag is that I know we traditionally think of a man dressing up as a woman – that would be the most succinct description of drag. But for me, I don’t dress up as a woman, I think I am dressed as a drag queen. In the beginning, I started dressing up because it was a way of expressing femininity that I couldn’t express in other places. And not just femininity: I’ve dressed up as all kinds of things, like Pinocchio, the Riddler – my best friend, Vanity, dresses up like all those things from my childhood, like She-Ra and Barbie. It’s Halloween every night of the year, but Halloween with femininity instead of horror. So I think Luke, talking about all of his inspirations and then putting on an outfit and seeing himself in the mirror, I know he was feeling a little powerful. He said, “I feel like I can start fighting crime.” It was really nice to see his confidence, what happened to him when he saw something different looking back in the mirror.

So it really opens up a human. Yeah, and I think there’s something nice about that. This show is not like, everyone should be a drag queen; it’s more like sharing the joy of what I know about doing drag, with someone else. It’s like, literally, come walk a mile in my shoes. And that experience makes me understand what I love about this.

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Do you feel that now – or probably in the last 10 years – that drag has entered the mainstream, or entered the consciousness of more people? Yeah, I think that one story we’ve seen over the last few hundred years is the — not offensive if you’re one — the story of the straight white guy…

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