Queer Eye season 2 cast on fame and politics: Our show is a beacon of hope

The reboot of Noughties makeover show Queer Eye has become a global phenomenon and returns for season 2 on June 15 - yass! The show's stars talk to us about fan hysteria and reuniting America.

Last updated: 12 June 2018 - 7.36pm

Walking into the room where the gentlemen of Queer Eye are hanging out is an emotional and physical onslaught.

If that doesn't sound like fun, then let me assure you that it really is.

Queer Eye season 2

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You are immediately swept up in hugs, compliments ("That colour looks great on you!") and general chatter - about the temperature of the room, about whether jackets should stay on and off, about the best light to take a selfie.

It's almost impossible to believe that just a few months ago nobody knew who the Fab Five - Tan France, Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Jonathan Van Ness and Antoni Porowski - were.

That is because the show, a reboot of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, which debuted in 2003 and ran for five series, has been a global phenomenon since it launched in February.

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Queer Eye season 2

"It's been insane," Berk laughs. "We went from being able to run around Atlanta for most of the year filming the show and nobody knew who we were to not really being able to go to Starbucks without taking a few selfies."

Brown starts chuckling. "If we're all five together, it's hysteria."

Ostensibly a makeover show, with each episode showing the chaps transforming the lives of a different subject (who they call "heroes"), it has tackled a number of different issues, including coming out, self-esteem and even police brutality.

Each of the five stars makes their own contribution - France, the show's only Brit, handles their wardrobe, Berk redesigns their homes, luscious-locked Van Ness spruces up their grooming, Porowski advises on food and wine, while Brown has the vaguer job title of "culture" but seems to be the person they end up spilling their guts to.

Now the show is back for a second series and will expand the premise even further - with a trans hero and a woman both receiving the benefit of the Fab Five's wisdom.

Settling down on a squishy sofa in the penthouse of a London hotel - sadly minus Van Ness, who is stuck in New York for a separate project - they spill the beans on why.

"It was really important that season two be more diverse," says France, who is fresh from a visit with his family in Doncaster, the first time he's seen them in a year.

Queer Eye

"We actually shot season one and two at the same time, but you get to learn so much more about us than you did in season one.

"This time we have a woman! We've been having people call out for a woman on our DMs so it changes a lot."

France is not exaggerating when he says the second series is a lot more personal - the first episode alone shows him discussing his desire to have children, while Berk talks about his troubled relationship with religion.

"Sometimes when it's things that are personal, they tend to be a little more challenging," Porowski, by far the quietest member of the group, says thoughtfully.

"But we have people who need our help the most and there's something really disarming about human vulnerability and it's kind of hard not to participate in that because it is a conversation.

"We learn just as much from them as they do from us, if not more."

Brown, who is a father of two, says seeing the development in their heroes is reminiscent of seeing children grow.

Queer Eye season 2 on Netflix

"Each one of my children have special moments. I can't compare what moment is the most impactful because they're all great.

"To see Neal from season one grow and give eye contact is great. To see Cory be able to talk about Black Lives Matter and, as a police officer, acknowledge experiences of people of colour.

"To see Tammy (in series two) shower Bobby with love as someone who's in the Christian faith and says it doesn't matter and if you don't love people who identify as LGBTQI as a Christian then you're not a Christian, those things all are equally impactful and impact us in different ways."

While some shows might have steered away from politics - for fear its happy and inclusive message would not tally with America's toxic political landscape - they instead steered into it.

The show is now filmed in Georgia, often in rural communities, and the first series featured not just a Trump voter but one with a Make America Great Again baseball cap.

"We weren't expecting to do this," Berk says.

"Our plan wasn't to go in there and make a political show, but when we got down there we realised, especially in the political climate that we're in right now, that everything is so polarised.

"You're on the far left or the far right and nobody is in the middle any more and we really just wanted to bring people in the middle and remind people that you can't define others by their vote or their political affiliation.

"At the end of the day, we're all just human and we really do have a whole lot more in common than we've remembered."

So has the show been a plaster for a painfully-torn America?

Queer Eye season 2 on Netflix

"Band aids cover up the wound," Brown says. "We're more the ointment that would go on the wound."

France looks thoughtful. "I believe that our show is a beacon of hope for certain people who think that they have been forgotten, that they don't have the support or representation.

"We're there for them and also to remind people that even though we are so divided, just a very open conversation can bridge that divide."

This is particularly pertinent coming from France, who is the first openly gay Muslim on western television.

Even though he hails from Yorkshire, he now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with his husband, who is a Mormon cowboy and he thought the burden of the responsibility of making history might be too heavy.

"There was a time when I thought I was actually going to say I don't want to do the show," he admits.

"It was before we started filming and I felt so much pressure."

Queer Eye season 2 on Netflix

The problem, he explains, was that when he spoke, he wouldn't just be speaking for himself: "I speak for a whole community, and I represent so many different communities that that felt like a lot of pressure."

Luckily, it was his husband, Rob, who talked him into it.

"My husband is wonderful and he reminded me that if it's not me, then who? If it's not now, then when?

"So I feel like it's perfectly appropriate that we now have representation and that I am that person."

Series two of Queer Eye will stream on Netflix from June 15.

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