Théodore Pellerin on Playing Karl Lagerfeld’s Boyfriend and Doing Drag for Sophie Dupuis’s Spellbinding ‘Solo’

I’m curious about the physicality of it all. Had you done anything remotely near drag before?

I’ve been saying that I haven’t done drag before, but it’s not actually true, because I realized that when I was in high school I did play a drag queen in a play that we wrote as teens. Of course, it was completely different, but that was my first drag experience, per se. I don’t have a past as a drag queen.

Well, you have a future. I’m curious about your research. Did you watch Drag Race beforehand, or where did you look for inspiration?

I started watching Drag Race when I knew that the film was coming together, and then Sophie and I started going to Mado in Montreal, the famous bar. Sophie was fascinated by drag, and I had an idea of what kind of drag I would more organically be able to do, which persona I’d feel myself in. But I was following what Sophie wanted and what was needed for the part. It also depended on who was going to play Oliver, and what their drag would be like. My work, I think, was more about learning to get comfortable with femininity and getting to a place where I felt that that extreme or satirical femininity was a place where I felt at my best, because that’s how these characters feel—on the stage in drag is where you are completely allowed to shine and be your most powerful. I needed to feel like I was not just playing a version of it, but allowing myself to open up and enjoy it, and having no shame. It was a completely liberating experience.

What’s interesting about the film and the drag element of it is that it’s less about the performance and more about the transformation. There is an important emotional journey that Simon undergoes that is manifested in his drag, but is not just about it. Drag has become so popular in culture, and that has, I think, made people see queens as this entity that exists in the context of performance, but there’s people behind that, which is what the film puts at its forefront.

Yes. The film is not only about drag, it’s a toxic relationship and a family story. The heart of it really lies somewhere else, so my work was also a lot of that. I think that what interested Sophie was bringing these two worlds together. They’re not separated, necessarily, but I think that they were two ideas that she wanted to explore. In the relationship we see the evolution of someone falling apart and being disintegrated bit by bit, but parallel to that we see him as someone who shines in drag and on stage, and that was, to her, an attractive parallel. [Simon] is so not in touch with himself that he doesn’t realize how his relationship with his mother is affecting him, or that it’s extremely toxic, as is his romance, so he is not allowing himself to see these things and continues to, without sounding too cliché, mask it off with makeup and drag. The resolution we hopefully reach is that he is able to see things with a bit more clarity, which is what puts him on track to be a better artist. It made sense for all of it to happen together.

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