Drag Race icon Danny Beard on Hollyoaks cameo and why British soaps are inherently queer
Drag Race UK icon Danny Beard chats to PinkNews about their Hollyoaks cameo, their dream to become a TV presenter, and why drag representation matters so much right now.
“Did I ever think I’d be in a soap, playing myself in drag, driving a drag wagon from Brighton to Chester to help two teenage lesbians while one of them has got cancer?,” questions Danny Beard, contemplating their upcoming appearance on Hollyoaks.
“No, I didn’t. But I’m very proud to be a part of it. It’s camp, crazy and cuckoo.”
It’s just a few short months since Danny Beard obliterated all competition on the fourth season of Drag Race UK, and the queen is already back, dominating one of the UK’s most beloved soaps.
They are also gearing up for the Drag Race UK Series Four Tour, filming a few presenter gigs, and, secretly, filming their own TV show (“I can’t say any more than that. I’ve probably already said too much – I’m gonna get shot.”)
Danny’s appearance on Hollyoaks is part of a two-part special, centred around lesbian characters Peri (Ruby O’Donnell) and Juliet (Niamh Blackshaw). Juliet has an aggressive form of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and the pair have travelled down to Brighton as part of the queerest bucket list going.
Their possessions go missing, and they need a hand getting back to Chester. Enter Danny and their drag wagon, and the trio are off on possibly the campest soap road trip – of all time?
Were you much of a British soaps fan growing up?
Growing up, I only watched Hollyoaks. Fifteen-year-old me loved Hollyoaks. I’ve never watched any of the other soaps, but you know, it’s a British institution. It’s something on a bucket list somewhere that I’ve managed to take off early on in this new direction in my career.
I feel so proud to have been part of this storyline because I think it’s important. I just hope that if there’s anyone out there that’s living with cancer at the moment, who is young and can relate to these characters, I hope we’ve done it justice. I hope someone sees something of themselves on screen.
From Bet Lynch to Pat Butcher, the soap matriarch is an important part of queer culture. Why do you think that is?
Because they’re always ballsy, they’re always mouthy, they’re always extravagant. I think a lot of queer people either want to be that or have to be that because of the way we’re treated.
You only have to look at the media now and the way that the governments are using trans people and small boats as the ‘look over there’ politics to distract from them just rinsing the country. I think [soaps are] escapism in the campest way.
Who is your favourite camp soap matriarch?
Myself, now! I’m waiting for my British Soap Award to arrive after these very strenuous scenes of playing myself. If I didn’t answer with “myself”, I wouldn’t be a drag queen.
Did you always want to go into acting post winning Drag Race UK?
I always wanted to do musicals and that’s definitely something me and my gorgeous management are exploring for the next couple of years. There’s been a few offers on the table, which is exciting. I’ll be honest though, I went into Drag Race UK with all my options open. TV presenter is what I’ve always wanted to do, and it’s still a dream of mine to be a proper TV presenter.
With The Vivienne making it to the final of Dancing On Ice, it feels like a good time for drag queens being on mainstream TV. How important is it to see drag in all its glory on the box?
Look what’s happening in America right now. People are trying to ban and are banning drag in public spaces. And I think it’s a very old, homophobic, transphobic rhetoric that’s driving it.
People have this debate about ‘drag isn’t suitable for all ages’, and I don’t think any media is suitable for all ages. You could say, right, well, films aren’t suitable for all ages, because some films are pornographic.
Drag isn’t suitable for all ages certainly. My theatre solo show – that’s not suitable for kids, but my appearance on Hollyoaks is suitable for the teenage audience because it’s fit for purpose. It’s really important to have good, positive representations of drag that isn’t just c**k jokes in a bar or rude things happening. It can be family entertainment, just as much as any other entertainment can.
Danny Beard’s Hollyoaks special airs 14 March on E4 and 15 March on Channel 4. Danny will also be on tour across the UK in June. Visit socomedy.co.uk for dates and ticket details.
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