By KJ Philp, July 2017 Issue.
You know her as Katya from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” but she also goes by Yekaterina Petrovna Zamolodchikova, the stage persona of Brian Joseph McCook.
In recent years, she’s become famous for her unique style of drag, which fans can catch regularly in several gay nightclubs in her hometown of Boston or via her YouTube channel, “We Love Katya.”
However, it’s her role as Xenia in Arizona-based filmmaker James Fanizza’s first feature film, Sebastian, that is generating all the buzz these days. (Read Echo‘s full feature on James Fanizza’s new film HERE.)
Echo Magazine caught up with Katya ahead of the world premiere of Sebastian at the Inside Out LGBT Film Festival May 26 in Toronto, and here’s what she had to say.
Echo: How did you and James Fanizza meet?
Katya: We met in the frozen food section of a supermarket in Toronto. He helped me pick out a healthy brand of hotdogs and then lent me $5.
Echo: What was it about Sebastian that made you want to be a part of it?
Katya: Sebastian was the name of my family’s first pet, a cat with an attitude problem that hissed and scratched you if you tried to touch him.
Echo: Describe your character, Xenia, and what she’s all about.
Katya: She’s basically me but with a different name. She’s all about free love, fast living, and saving a lot on car insurance.
Echo: How much of the Katya that “RuPaul’s Drag Race” fans have come to know and love do you bring to this role?
Katya: There’s a performance scene that will look familiar to fans of the show, but they’ll be in for a treat when they see how much my acting has grown to resemble Meryl Streep.
Echo: In what ways was shooting Sebastian different from your experiences on “RuPaul’s Drag Race”? In what ways was it similar?
Katya: It was only similar in the sense that there were cameras – everything was different. No pressure and all encouragement. It was a welcome change.
Echo: Any surprises on set that you hadn’t expected?
Katya: I was waiting for Jude Law to show up, but he never did. For some reason I thought Jude Law was in every movie, but it turns out that’s not the case.
Echo: How has this experience inspired new cinema ambitions?
Katya: I would love to be in more movies and I would love to direct one some day!
Echo: One of James’ goals is to create safe spaces for LGBTQ people through such mediums as film and television. From your vantage point in the industry, why are these spaces so essential still?
Katya: Growing up, I never really saw the gay experience portrayed on film, so it’s important for LGBTQ folks to see their lives represented.
Echo: With your multimedia platforms, do you feel a sense of responsibility as a role model?
Katya: Not really, but luckily I happen to have pretty high moral standards for myself.
Echo: What advice would you offer drag queens aspiring to star on the big, or small, screen?
Katya: Shave really well and wear lots and lots of makeup.
Echo: How has your background, specifically studying video and performance art at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, influenced your career move into film?
Katya: It got me comfortable performing in front of people and in front of the camera, which at first was completely terrifying.
Echo: How has it influenced your YouTube channel, “We Love Katya”? How much of that glorious material do you write ahead of time?
Katya: Most of that stuff is improvised and it’s a collaboration with my friend, Avi Weinstein, who went to MassArt with me. It’s a great way to reach a global audience – anybody can watch at any time for free.
Echo: In terms of acting, who are some of your inspirations?
Katya: My approach to acting is basically that I just don’t want to humiliate myself too badly.
Echo: Do you have any future plans you can share with us at this time?
Katya: I’m working on shooting videos for a stage show that will be presented later in the year and I’m working on another web series.
Echo: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Katya: I’m a woman and I won’t be taken for granted.