Dynasty. Dallas. Twin Peaks. All the television greats of the 80s and early 90s had a few things in common: shoulder pads, hairspray and HIGH DRAMA, MAWMA. Capitol Hill takes these motifs and gives us everything we loved about the golden age of primetime television and puts it on a silver platter with a side of caviar.
We sat down with the cast and crew to ask them a few questions about life, exorcisms, and their love of 70s and 80s television aesthetic. Here’s part one of the interview series.
The RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Jinkx Monsoon, plays Celeste Dahl, the Seattle Mayor’s wealthy, unpredictable wife, who’s bent on ruining Roses Smell’s life.
Celeste Dahl is a very distinct character and you embody her so well. What were you inspirations for creating Celeste?
JINKX MONSOON: Well, it all started over coffee with the show’s creator, Wes. What I loved about working with Wes, is we really had a conversation about the character and her plot line. I felt very involved in the creation of the character. She’s was initially inspired by Cate Blanchett’s character in Blue Jasmine. Then the southern drawl found its way in, and she took on heavy influence from Dynasty. She’s an interesting character cuz she presents herself as a dignified woman, but she’s an absolute mess. Makes for a fun performance.
Can you name 5 drag performers you absolutely love and find inspiring – who haven’t been on RuPaul’s Drag Race?
JINKX MONSOON: Varla Jean Merman has been a huge influence and I’ve been lucky enough to get to know her as a friend in Provincetown where we perform together each summer. Coco Peru as well! She’s been so sweet to me throughout the years. Lady Bunny has always been a huge influence to me, and now she won’t stop calling me! Charles Bush had a huge impact on me in Die, Mommy, Die! And Craig Russell was the queen who inspired me to start doing impersonations.
Who’d win the naked oil wresting match between Colby Keller and Jonathan Crimeni (the Mayor)?
JINKX MONSOON: Well, I should start by saying that Jonathan and I went to college together, and I even substitute taught a couple of his classes. That guy is one of the SWEETEST people I have ever known, and he’s always been a good friend to me. I have no doubt that he’d be great at oil wrestling… But I’m gonna say Colby would win… He has MUCH more experience in that area.
We live in the age of remakes. If you had your choice to star in a famous Hollywood remake – what would it be?
JINKX MONSOON: Well, the obvious choice would be Death Becomes Her – that is my all time favorite movie. I would love to play Madeline Ashton… But I don’t believe we could ever top the original, so instead I’m going to say Clockwork Orange.
What’s the most surprising thing about you that most people don’t know?
JINKX MONSOON: I am an extremely clumsy person. I have a curse on my head… It’s basically Murphy’s law. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, to me. It’s actually why my nickname/drag name is Jinkx. However, even though I’ve been hit by 4 cars in my life (three times on a bike, once while walking,) I’ve never broken a bone.
PHOTO CAPTION: Harmony Arnold, Costume Designer & Co-Producer of “Capitol Hill”
Co-producer and Costume Designer, Harmony Arnold won Best Costume Design at Indy Series Awards for her work on Capitol Hill. In addition to designing for theater and film, Arnold is a professor at Seattle University.
Which Capitol Hill character has been the most fun to dress?
HARMONY ARNOLD: I’m not sure if I can choose just one character as the “most fun” to dress, they all have such distinct personas and fashion identities-it makes it so much fun to dress each one of them! Roses Smells (aka Waxie Moon-aka Marc Kenison) has always been my favorite character to explore. I have worked with Marc from the early stages of Waxie Moon and I think that over the years, that specific character development has been the most rewarding for me as a Costume Designer. I especially enjoy recreating the Waxie character within these different personas-be it Roses in Capitol Hill or Waxie as the Carrie Bradshaw character in Waxie Moon in Fallen Jewel. In Waxie Moon/Roses, I find the freedom to explore iconography, gender identity, juxtaposition of period, and embrace modes of postmodernity.
Do you have a favorite outfit in the entire show?
HA: Again, it is hard to have just one “favorite outfit”- Capitol Hill is packed full of eye candy when it comes to outfits! One of my all time favorite outfits in Capitol Hill is the coffee bean sack-dress that Roses Smell wears in the first episode. The outfit is a bit tongue and cheek-chic. Capitol Hill is set in the GREAT Pacific North West, and we are not shy about our love for coffee. It is no doubt that Roses wears the sack well. I think it was a creative impulse that not only supports Roses humble beginnings, but also allows the audience to track the character’s development into the leading lady that she becomes.
Capitol Hill style is mostly inspired by 1970’s. What elements of 1970’s fashion do you think are particularly great and which elements should never be brought back EVER?
HA: The 1970’s were such a dynamic time for fashion. It was specifically a great time for women’s fashion. It was during this time in American history that women were taking on managerial positions in the corporate world (previously positions primarily held by men), a time when women were beginning to wear pants and pantsuits for both business and leisure. Women gained the freedom to explore their sexual identity through fashion with androgynous styles, the Diane von Furstenburg wrap-dress gained popularity, Rudi Genreich designed the thong in 1975! It was also a fantastical time for texture-patterns and prints were a go-go as optical art, pop art and wearable art influenced fashion. A variety of techniques such as crocheting, knitting, embroidery and beading made the period unique in the ways of adornment. The elements of the 1970’s are so DARN good that they are still setting the fashion trends of right-this-moment. Off the shoulder shirts, platform shoes, maxi skirts and dresses, and large brimmed hats are making a come back right NOW because, well, it just works! Mustaches…maybe not so much-just say’in.
Can you talk about color pallets for the characters and how you came up with them?
HA: Color is such a big part of our Capitol Hill world. Creator, Wes Hurley and Production Designer, Christopher Balder and I work very hard to maintain a distinct color palette throughout each episode and across all production values. Specifically for costumes, I tend to think in color and texture first, before line and silhouette. I think the elements of color and texture are where my mind first goes as a Costume Designer because assigning color and texture to character helps the audience track character and place a character within an emotional landscape. Also, color and texture are dramatic elements and they are tactile to the eye and mind and they create a playground visually.
The world’s favourite gay porn superstar, Colby Keller is also an artist, filmmaker, blogger and a model for Vivienne Westwood.
Capitol Hill is a parody/homage to 1970-80s classic American TV. Do you have any favorite shows from that era?
COLBY KELLER: I have a lot of favorite shows from the era. I liked The Jeffersons and Good Times, Family Ties and Alf. I think I watched the first two as reruns when I was a teenager, and the last two as they aired when I was a kid.
You have become a major icon in contemporary gay culture. Who were the icons you looked up to growing up?
COLBY KELLER: Whoa! That sounds like a pretty hefty responsibility, one I don’t think I’m ready to bear just yet, but thank you for the compliment none-the-less. I also don’t know what a clear indicator this is but I was a unique child. Pretty much all of my icons and heroes were Indian war chiefs: Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Tecumseh, Chief Joseph. . . It took me a long while (and still does) to trust white people, and I’m not really joking about that. I’m not sure if I ever had any gay icons that I looked up to, Andy Warhol and John Waters maybe? to some extent? but in a much more nuanced and careful way. . . Those two hit me in high school. I really admired my first boyfriend Step. He made lots of bold choices and didn’t take shit from anybody. He definitely had a big impact on who I am today.
In Season 2 of Capitol Hill you spend all of your time camping out. Are you as outdoorsy in real life?
COLBY KELLER: I do like the outdoors. I love Mother Nature in fact! Lord knows she’s about to go through some serious shit so we all better hold out a helping hand and hope she gets through it! Camping and hiking are great ways to hug it out with Big Mamma (as she lies slowly dying on her deathbed). For real.
Last great books read?
COLBY KELLER: I read Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis, which was pretty good and Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko. Ceremony was emotionally difficult for me to get through but it’s well worth the effort. Ceremony tells the haunting story of a WWII vet who returns home to life on the Laguna Pueblo reservation, crippling bouts of “battlefield fatigue” and alcoholism his constant companions. Beautifully written, the book eventually led to the author’s explosion from the tribe (though it was later reinstated). In crafting her story, Silko also revealed sacred tribal knowledge. Reading the book for the first time was a powerful, conflicting experience.
Erik Warren recently won Best Makeup at the Indy Series Awards, along with Bek Harvey and Pakio Galore. Warren created many creature special effects of Capitol Hill. When not working on Capitol Hill, Warren collaborates with the likes of Elvira Mistress of the Dark and Peaches Christ and produces live shows in Seattle.
Which project has been the most fun?
WARREN: All the projects working on this series were really fun! But out of all of them, I’d have to say ~ ‘Making Robbie Turner Vomit in Season One!’ I haven’t laughed that hard in years! I just remember holding onto Wes Hurley’s arm crying while holding in my screaming high pitched lady cackles. It was a long day and I don’t know if it was the lack of rest or what, but I swear I almost pissed my pants watching her blow green chunks! It reminded me of the vomit from ‘You Can’t Do That On Television!’ (Cream Corn, Corn Syrup and green food coloring) So gross!
The most challenging project on the show?
WARREN: That freakin bald cap scene with Inga playing baby Roses Smell! Inga was in that cap for about 4 hours until we started shooting. The latex was stiffening and making ripples from every time she turned her head. I had to constantly keep gluing. It was a nightmare. Finally I just made her look really filthy with brown dirt powder to cover all the wrinkles. But it still showed! I think she was in that bald cap for about 8 hours when we finally finished shooting her last scene. I can’t even watch the episode without rolling my eyes and biting my lip so I don’t curse.
What makeup effects scenes growing up made me want to work in makeup?
WARREN: I have to say the 1987 film Summer School! The characters ‘Chainsaw & Dave’ were big inspirations for me at such a young and impressionable age. In the movie the two play a couple of crazy high school students that are obsessed with horror films and special effects makeup. In one of my favorite scenes they prank a substitute teacher by playing psychopaths that have killed and mutilated all of their classmates. The teacher of corse freaks out and quits. So hilarious! After watching that it was always a dream of mine to do something similar.., let’s just say I’ve scared quite a few people in my adolescence. That movie and every ‘Halloween’ Rosanne episode ever made were big inspirations!
What effects creature do I want to do most?
WARREN: I’ve done quite a few…, there really isn’t one new one that I would love to do most. I’m always excited to create whatever is needed. I usually just roll with the idea that someone gives me and then go crazy with it! I never get tired of doing MEDUSAS! I love that character! I always find different ways of creating a new style twist on her. I’d really like to do a Medusa with penises instead of snakes! That would be pretty awesome! Especially if I can make them spit!
Robbie Turner has been the queen of Seattle drag for many years, drawing a huge following with her spot-on celebrity impersonations and even producing her own monthly show for Hard Rock Cafe. Recently she competed on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8.
What is your favorite thing you get to do on Capitol Hill?
TURNER: My favorite thing I got to do in Capitol Hill season 2 was fly! It felt glamorous & deliciously evil.
You are known for your love of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Who would you want to play your role if Capitol Hill was a classic Hollywood film?
TURNER: If Capitol Hill was made during classic Hollywood I would LOVE to see Gloria Swanson play my role Dottie Pearl. Can you imagine the drama? Hysterical.
Have you had any personal encounters with exorcism?
TURNER: I have never had a personal experience with exorcism, but when I was younger I was raised in a religious household with ministers as parents. We weren’t allowed to watch certain movies or television shows, but I remember this one time being at a friends house and we watched The Exorcist. I literally peed my pants when she crawls upside down on the stairs. I was horrified.