Drag Race UK is back on our screens tonight (January 28) and thank God it is because it is honestly the best thing on telly right now.
One of the show’s central selling points is the Brit Crew – two muscular guys who are occasionally roped into help out with challenges.
You might think the Brit Crew are stereotypical Instagram models but Tony Fordham, 32, is in fact an NHS doctor at Northwick Park Hospital, where he mostly works on labour wards.
For more news and features about London directly to your inbox sign up to our newsletter here .
Tony spoke to MyLondon about how he landed the gig on Drag Race, and what the show is really like behind the scenes.
He was approached for series 1, but he ‘wasn’t six foot’
Tony told MyLondon he was initially approached on Instagram to be in the first series of the show, and was sent an application form by a BBC Three casting agent.
However, when Tony opened the form, he saw one of the requirements read: “Must be over six foot.”
Tony admitted he “barely scrapes 5’11,” so he abandoned the application, until he was contacted two years later and sent a form with no minimum height requirement.
“I thought, ‘this is fun, I’ve watched a bit of Drag Race, why not?'” he said. The next day he was contacted and invited to a casting.
The casting process involved ‘hundreds’ of men being interviewed in their pants
Tony said there were hundreds of guys at castings over the two weeks, all of them models, singers, or actors.
“I chatted to this one guy, a 6’2 doctor who works at Dean Street with sexual health,” Tony told MyLondon. “I thought I didn’t stand a chance.”
The wannabe Brit Crew members were brought in front of a panel of interviewers five at a time, ordered to strip down to their pants, and asked to introduce themselves. It was odd.
“I’m really awkward at the best of times, as I’m sure people have seen on the show,” Tony said.
Despite feeling “quite despondent” at his chances, producers called Tony the next day to give him the good news – it was a busy day on the labour ward at the time, he recalled.
The Brit Crew will only appear in four episodes due to Covid interruptions to filming
Filming kicked off in February, and Tony remembers getting the Tube to Pineapple Studios and seeing passengers already wearing masks and practising social distancing.
Initially, producers tried to keep the show running as safely as possible, taking temperatures on set, “then corona happened” and filming was brought to an abrupt halt by the first lockdown of 2020.
Tony told MyLondon next week’s episode is the last we’ll see of the Brit Crew (February 4), although he’s holding out hope for Drag Con.
The queens aren’t allowed to interact with each other or the Brit crew unless cameras are rolling
Asked what the queens were like, Tony didn’t have much to say as the interactions between them and the Brit crew are regulated by producers.
“During filming the queens are locked away,” he said. “They have a one-to-one who follows them everywhere and they’re not allowed any social media.”
He explained this is so all interactions in the workroom and beyond are genuine, including when the queens talk to the Brit Crew.
RuPaul is really chatty but they have to cut a lot of it
RuPaul is the show’s executive producer (duh), so Tony did not get much one-on-one time with him, as Ru spends most of his time on set chatting to other crew members and producers via an earpiece.
The two did, however, film a bit of dialogue during the Brit Crew’s introduction in the first episode.
“We were given very little direction,” Tony said. “When I walked out Ru turned to me and said, ‘hi, how are you,’ and we started having a conversation, but when you watch it back it was all cut out.
“It made me feel like one of the queen sin the workroom when Ru has the individual chats with them.”
There are loads of people in the workroom you can’t see
“When you turn around there are loads of people in the workroom behind camera,” Tony told MyLondon.
He said the Brit Crew were “followed everywhere” by a make-up crew and were very well looked after by off-camera staff who gave them snacks and drinks.
“It was a world away from my NHS job where you’re lucky if you get a thank you now and again,” he said.
Tayce is the one to watch, apparently
Tony said his favourite memory was the first challenge with the tennis court, and of the queens who took part he said Tayce was the best.
“The direction for the queen’s was: you’ve got the Brit Crew, use them as you want. The others just had us there but she absolutely used us – we lifted her up – it was so much fun.
“I remember thinking, this girl is gonna go far.”
Tony’s had a lot of DMs on Instagram as his episodes have aired. Many ask him what Ru is like (lovely), and who wins (he doesn’t know), the rest are “weirdos” asking if he’s single. None of his patients behave any differently, however.
New episodes of Drag Race UK are available to stream on on BBC iPlayer every Thursday at 7pm.
-- to www.mylondon.news