Making her West End debut, Anna Phylactic joined the cast of Death Drop at Garrick Theatre at the end of 2020 playing the role of Morgan Pierce before the show had to postpone the rest of its run due to the pandemic and is now set to reopen in May. With Anna being part of the Family Gorgeous, they had their own reality show Drag SOS on Channel 4, travelling across the UK giving drag-enhanced makeovers to guests. During COVID, the Family Gorgeous got together to release their own Manchester Queers Calendar to help those who could not work during the pandemic, and she has previously attended DragWorld and more recently was part of the Virtual Pride Parade. Anna has worked on a number of films, with the first being Worried About the Boy as Christopher, and she will be appearing in the future release of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie playing Tray Sophisticay. Speaking with Anna, she tells us about making her West End debut in Death Drop as Morgan Pierce, the Family Gorgeous TV show Drag SOS and appearing as a guest on Lorraine.
What is Morgan Pierce like to play in Death Drop at Garrick Theatre and how is it making your West End debut with the production?
Morgan is a monster. She’s poisonous, opportunistic (everything you’d expect from the gutter press) and an absolute dream to play! A baddie is always so much more fun and I think she’s hated by pretty much all of the characters! Loosely taking inspiration from Piers Morgan (geddit?) and Rebekah Brooks, it’s not surprising.
Getting to tread the boards at the Garrick with this fabulous bunch of Drags and make my West End debut with her is literally a dream come true! I am a very lucky Drag Queen!
How is it being part of the cast and what have you enjoyed most from your time in the show so far?
I mean… it was just nice to get out of the house, to be honest! It’s so amazing to be in a cast and company that is predominantly Queer! I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced that! And (correct me if I’m wrong) this is the first all-drag cast to hit the West End! We are making literal history/herstory and we are having all the fun too! The cast are all gorgeously talented and getting to work with them has been undiluted joy! Especially during a pandemic! I think my favourite thing about the show though is the audience reaction! I think we really need something like this at the moment, after the last year! It’s a wonderful feeling at the end of the show curtain call to see the audience having a little dance and celebrating with us! Remember dancing and theatre and having a good time? This is it!
You are part of the Family Gorgeous, can you say more about them and do you have any upcoming projects with them that you can tell us about?
I am indeed part of the Family Gorgeous! You obviously saw the family on Drag SOS but we have other members of the group too! It’s a complicated family tree! Who knows what is next? We have all been working on our own projects but occasionally come together for various gigs and jobs and projects! We recently all came together to produce a ‘Manchester Queers Calendar’ to help raise money for those people unable to work during the pandemic. Think it’s still available online *wink* (https://gayprideshop.co.uk/products/manchester-calendar-queers-2021-calendar).
Can you tell us what it was like filming Drag SOS with the Family Gorgeous for Channel 4 and how was it seeing the viewers’ response to the show?
I’m not going to lie, Drag SOS was hard work! Ultra rewarding but hard work! After doing that I can literally do anything! It was a rough schedule. We were up at the crack of dawn every day and had to be in drag and mic’d up ready to go for around 8:30am. I wish we’d had the budget or the foresight or knowledge that we’d be wearing the one outfit for around twelve hours or more five days a week and made multiple outfits because by the end of the week you really did feel grim! It was challenging on so many levels… we’d never done anything like it before and were kind of working it out as we went along. But meeting all the wonderful people that took part in the show more than made up for all our grumbles. We met some truly beautiful humans and are still in contact with most! We also got to hang out with each other and film our own TV show in our very own Priscilla-style van! Which is pretty amazing! We had our own TV show on Channel 4 narrated by Hugh Bonneville from Downton Abbey! And isn’t it nice to have a show where we are celebrating each other instead of competing? That really is an achievement, isn’t it? We had a lovely response from everyone that watched the show and new people keep discovering it all the time. It’s lovely.
How did it feel finding out you’d be part of Drag SOS and how did it come about?
It was terribly exciting and it all happened so quickly, Cheddar (Gorgeous) had been talking to Summer Films (the production company), who came and met and interviewed us all. We all filmed a short pilot-type episode which we did in one day. This was shown to Channel 4 and they snapped it up immediately. Several meetings later, we were climbing aboard the glittery Drag van and whizzing all around the UK!
What was it like appearing on shows such as Lorraine and Sunday Brunch to promote the series?
Oh, it was so much fun! It all felt very surreal doing those shows! Really had to keep pinching yourself that we sat on Lorraine’s sofa talking to the actual Lorraine Kelly! Can you believe it? We even transformed Lorraine at a different date and crowned her ‘Morning Gloria’. She’s fabulous! Really lovely person and a true Ally!
Myself and Cheddar also went on The Sara Cox Show and I really had to bite my tongue because we were on there with Layton Williams and Faye Tozer (they were starring in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie in the West End at the time) and I was gagging to tell them I’d just been cast in the movie version, but I stayed quiet because of my NDA.
You filmed some challenges with AutoTrader last year, what were these like to do?
Ridiculous. They say never work with dogs or Drag queens and I had both! Honestly, trying to herd dogs into a car was probably harder than trying to herd pigs like that time on SOS! Never again! But I did get to work with Vinegar (Strokes) which was a hoot as you might expect! I actually don’t think my makeup came out too bad though considering we were doing it in the back of a speeding vehicle. I’ve had practice doing my makeup on trains and buses for many years though. Think that came in handy!
What other projects have you been working on while clubs/theatres have been closed?
Like most drags, I found myself doing a fair few online drag shows. I enjoyed learning new skills (video editing) and having a project to work towards but it really isn’t for me. There’s a real connection and sharing of energy with live performance and you just don’t get the same reactions through a computer screen. I also feel like at the start of the pandemic more people were invested in these kind of shows and people have kind of stopped investing in them which is a shame.
So, I enjoyed the learning a new skill side but not the performance so much because there is no audience/performer relationship. I think my creativity has turned more towards making things to wear and costuming during this time.
I did do the Virtual Pride Parade which, again, was surreal but I wanted to be visible and show solidarity with my trans brothers and sisters and non-binary beauties! I think you should always be marching for something and stand for something. I also did a few storytimes which I loved! There are some gorgeous children’s books out there that explore gender and queer identities! I think I want to be on Jackanory!
What is the atmosphere like attending events such as DragWorld?
Electric! There’s so much to do and see!
The first year we took part I was literally soaking up everything. We performed on the stage but got to explore whereas the second year we had a constant queue at our booth! I wouldn’t change that though as it was so wonderful to meet all the fans!
How long does it take to become Anna Phylactic for a live performance?
Literally five minutes! Just a touch of tinted moisturiser and I’m good to go. No, in all seriousness I’d say I’ve whittled it down from about four hours to around an hour and a half.
Do you have a favourite aspect of being a drag queen?
The attention. I like attention. No, it’s probably the creativity. You get to do a bit of everything. Making outfits, planning looks and numbers, putting tracks together. You are a bit of a one drag band.
You play Tray Sophisticay in the upcoming feature film Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, what was it like to film and how was the experience on set of a musical?
I probably can’t say too much! But I can say it’s going to be EPIC!
A once in a lifetime thing! It’s a glorious story with a fantastic message and I’m so grateful to be part of it! I got to hang out with Richard E. Grant, Max Harwood and Myra (DuBois) and (Son of a) Tutu for God’s sake! It was a laugh a minute!
You’ve previously appeared in Worried About the Boy, what are some of your favourite memories from working on the film?
You have done your research, haven’t you?! I loooooooved doing Worried About the Boy. Some of my happiest memories are from doing that film. I loved the outfits and the music and getting to dance to Siouxsie and the Banshees – Happy House in a nightclub that had been transformed to look like the Blitz Club. It really was like travelling back in time. Every morning I’d be in makeup for around forty minutes and I think that was around the same time that I thought I wish we had this kind of scene in Manchester… I wish this could be my life and it kind of is now.
What are some of your favourite TV and theatre shows to watch?
I love Black Mirror… anything Charlie Brooker really. Love Inside No. 9, The League of Gentlemen… Ooooh did you see Mark Gatiss’ adaptation of Dracula? I’ve literally watched that about five times. It’s so well done! It’s a Sin was great too! Furious I wasn’t in it actually.
Theatre-wise I’m a big fan of a musical. Sondheim is a favourite. And I’ve had the soundtrack of SIX on repeat since it came out! That show is everything!
What are you looking forward to most for when the industry can reopen fully and Death Drop can return to the West End?
Performing again! Press night? Hopefully we get to catch some other shows too!
What advice would you give someone aspiring to be a drag queen?
Go for it! You only have one life so fill it with stuff you love and follow your bliss! My main piece of advice would be to enjoy finding out who you are and what your style is. Be playful. Experiment. Have fun! (Do you! But don’t steal my gigs!)
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