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What AJ and the Queen’s Izzy G Learned From RuPaul

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Izzy G recently turned 11, making her just about as old as RuPaul’s Drag Race, the institution that turned RuPaul Charles from drag icon to television mogul over the last decade. So it’s especially entertaining to watch Izzy go toe-to-toe with RuPaul — something many drag queens have struggled to do on Drag Race — in the new Netflix series AJ and the Queen. During one of their first conversations in a diner on their way to Pittsburgh, AJ cuts off RuPaul’s Robert as he goes into a classic RuPaul “you can be whoever you wanna be around me” self-help speech. “Yeah, yeah. Are you taking me to Texas or not?” AJ asks. “I was speaking, that was rude!” Robert replies, as AJ glares at him, with a mouthful of pancake and blueberry syrup.

It sets the tone for the odd couple’s ten-episode journey, as AJ slowly opens up to Robert, who begins to feel like a parental figure to AJ. But no matter how irreverent her character could be, Izzy G says AJ’s more serious disagreements with Robert were emotional to shoot. “I don’t like to see them fighting,” she says. “It’s something that means a lot to [AJ] if she gets mad at him for it.” She expanded on how she relates to AJ during a discussion with Vulture about her role on the show, what she learned from RuPaul, and the sort of roles she wants to play next.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

When you first heard about the show, what did you think about the idea?
I thought the idea was necessary and it was needed. It was funny, it was hilarious, and it was something that I wanted to do. And when I heard I was gonna get it, I was so excited.

Did you know much about drag when you heard about the show?
I knew a little bit about drag, but not so much.

So, what about the show did you mean is necessary?
Today, there are a lot of kids in the world that their parents are working 24/7, if they have parents, and it’s not like they’re even there. People are not being able to pay their rent, so they’re getting evicted and they’re losing their house. Some people don’t know that, and that’s what we’re telling. We’re telling a story about how people lose their house and they lose their money and then they’re going on the street and they’re having to be tough and scared, and they need a hug sometimes. But they can’t show that.

Yeah, I think AJ is definitely tough.
She’s like a shell. But inside, she just needs a hug. She just needs somebody that makes her feel like somebody loves her.

How do you relate to AJ as a character?
When she’s coming out of her shell, she’s fun. She’s quirky, she’s able to laugh. And when she gets to know people, she’s very kind.

We’re watching her get to know Robert over the course of the show. What was it like for you to get to know RuPaul as you were acting with him?
Getting to know RuPaul was the best part about the whole show! He was very helpful to everybody. Getting to know him wasn’t so hard at all — he’s like an open book.

As an actor who’s still starting out, what were the biggest things that you learned from him?
No. 1 was to not kiss him when he was wearing drag. [Laughs.] And No. 2 was to never look at the camera. And No. 3 was, if you mess up on a line, it doesn’t matter — you’ll get it right … As a person, I learned to understand. I learned to be calm on set, and if it’s a really tough day, and you’ve got to put that smile on the face for the camera, you can do that. And you just need Ru in your life! You know, to make that happen.

You mentioned tough days — what was the hardest part about making the show?
When we needed to cry. It took us a moment to get on that mind-set, because when we cry, we cry. It’s not just one of those, “Oh, I’m crying, look at me! I can act!” No. It’s not us being sorry for AJ or Robert, crying. It’s us being them, being in their situation. Getting evicted, getting hurt, getting scammed. It’s not us feeling sorry for them, it’s us being in their shoes.

I definitely saw that on the show with AJ, because like you said, she has this tough shell.
Mm-hmm. When she cries around people, that means a lot to her, ’cause that means that she trusts somebody.

It was also funny to me to watch all the arguments that AJ and Robert would get into. I’ve been watching RuPaul on TV for a while, and it’s kind of hard to argue with him. What was it like filming those disagreements?
My favorite arguments are the funny arguments when AJ says something completely offensive to him, and he plays it cool. He’s just like, “You know AJ, that’s quite hurtful,” and she’s like, “Oh, I know. That’s why I’m saying it to you.” [Laughs.] Of course, she could offend him all she wants, and she’d get personal about it, but Robert would just be like, “She’s 10. I can’t punch her.” But it’s like, You’re 40, I can punch you. She will get hurt from Robert saying [certain] things. And Robert trying to be like, back to being fun and happy, and then AJ’s like, “No, get out of your bubble.”

Some of the other funny moments to me were the ones where Robert would mention a celebrity like Diana Ross or Maya Angelou, and AJ would have no idea who they were. Did you have actually know who these people were?
Some of them I did, like Diana Ross, Cher, Marilyn Monroe, Christina Aguilera. Ru, oh my goodness. When I first started out this show, he didn’t think I knew about Madonna! But I did, because my uncle, when I was like 9, he sent me a photo of Madonna when she was little and she looked exactly like me.

So, you’re only 11 and already have a starring role on a TV show —
I know, it’s crazy!

Just hearing it out loud must be wild. What do you want to do next?
I would love to do season two of AJ and the Queen, of course. We’re gonna totally talk to Mister Netflix. But I would love to do something like Nicole Kidman, The Others. I’d like to do more adult-y things, more scary things — like, I want to be in a horror film. Oh, [Leon:] The Professional. I want to do something like Greatest Showman, even though that’s more for kids, but I do want to sing. But I don’t want to do a lot of kid things.

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