Game On! DRAG RACE Fave Manila Luzon Checks In To GENERAL HOSPITAL
When Drag Bingo Comes To The Floating Rib.
Manila Luzon — beloved by fans for the legendary looks and witty wordplay she showcased on Season 3 of RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE and Seasons 1 and 4 of RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE ALL STARS — will make her soap opera debut on GH on Friday, September 6 as the host of drag queen bingo at The Floating Rib. Luzon, who would welcome a return trip to Port Charles (“My evil twin sister might show up! Who knows where my storyline will be in 20 or 30 years!”), spoke to Soap Opera Digest about the gig.
Soap Opera Digest: Hi!
Manila Luzon: Good morning! Sorry I’m late; I’m a drag queen and I’m on drag time, so the fact that I’m seven minutes late actually means I’m on time.
Digest: Well, I couldn’t be more excited to talk to you today. What was your reaction when you found out that GENERAL HOSPITAL wanted in on some Manila action?
Luzon: Well, first of all, I am so happy that they even thought of me to be a part of their show. I thought immediately that it was probably because they wanted me to represent a Filipino nurse, because it takes place in a hospital and I have lots of Filipino relatives who work in hospitals. No, I’m just playing. I was really excited because it’s a legendary show! It’s been on the air for like 100 years! Do you know how many years exactly?
Luzon: Fifty-six. That’s legendary! I’m really excited to be a part of it, and also, it’s like a pioneer in hospital shows — ER, GREY’S ANATOMY. Quality entertainment.
Digest: Have you ever watched a soap before?
Luzon: I never watched GENERAL HOSPITAL, but I did use to watch DAYS OF OUR LIVES, back in the Marlena possession days, yeah. She has a twin sister — the actual twin sister of the actress, right?
Digest: That’s right! Maybe we should switch jobs for a day!
Luzon (laughs): I had to suddenly catch up on GENERAL HOSPITAL, so now I’m hooked. I made sure I was getting all into the characters.
Digest: So when GH asked you, there was no hesitation, it was just immediately, “I’m in”?
Luzon: Oh, I’m always in. To be honest, there are very few roles and opportunities for drag queens. It’s not like there are lots of scenes where there’s a drag queen walking through or, you know, “She’s the bank teller,” you know what I mean? A lot of times, we’ll be within the context of where you will find drag queens, which is usually like a drag club or a drag brunch or a drag bingo, any kind of drag show. I’ve done scenes similar to that, where you’re in a drag club or you’re in some cool party where there’s a drag queen. But I love to take the role, represent the queer community, the LGBTQ community, and just be present, especially on a daytime soap opera. I mean, you don’t see drag queens in daytime! I think it’s really cool. I’m used to the RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE audience, but I’m reaching a completely new audience, being introduced to some people’s favorite show, and they might not have any idea who I am — yet!
Digest: When you booked this job, what were the conversations you had with hair and makeup and wardrobe? Did you do your own look?
Luzon: Well, of course, I spoke to hair and makeup and wardrobe, but it’s easier for me to costume myself because I know what I’m doing. And shows like GENERAL HOSPITAL, they are creating story after story after story every single day. Everyone works so hard. Their wardrobe and hair department is turning it out! All the wardrobe [people] wanted to participate in clothing me, [but] they just don’t have my size dress, a full sequined feather boa gown with a sculpted wig showing up in their wardrobe department, you know? I’m sure they could pull out some old sequined gowns from the ’80s from the archives, maybe.
Digest: You should have raided the closet while you were there!
Luzon: Oh, trust me, we did! Nothing fit [laughs]. All those soap stars are teeny tiny, every singe one of them! They’re all beautiful, petite actresses.
Digest: Did you come with multiple looks or had it been decided on before you showed up?
Luzon: Well, from my discussions with the GENERAL HOSPITAL wardrobe department and all of the fine people there, we had a good idea of what was needed for the show. I brought a couple options, two options, and they were perfect, exactly what they needed, exactly what they wanted.
Digest: Well, needless to say, you look gorgeous in the photos that I’ve seen.
Luzon: Thank you! People know me as Manila Luzon, and I have my own character. So to get to play a role that’s not Manila Luzon is always fun for me so I can switch up my looks a little bit. Usually I’m known for having black hair with a blonde streak in it, so it’s fun to throw on a big Barbie blonde hairdo and just play like, this, amazing drag queen who isn’t necessarily Manila Luzon. She gets her own backstory. I’ve acted in many things, and sometimes they want me to play myself, you know? So I have a certain look that goes for that. If I am supposed to play someone else, then it’s nice to be able to easily switch up my look by changing my wig, changing my dress, changing my makeup. It’s a lot of fun. My look was inspired by Jessica Rabbit and Barbie and Lady Bunny, all these drag queens that you think, “Oh, drag queens — big blonde men in a sparkly dress with feathers and glitter.”
Digest: I’m so curious about your backstory for this queen. I have to imagine she’s not working a ton living in Port Charles. I’m concerned.
Luzon: Oh, come on. Port Charles — a hub! There’s a major hospital that’s located there, you know? Rich doctors live there! And wherever there are people who need some cheering up and some money, you know a drag queen is there to get some tips.
Digest: I would love to see Manila go from hospital room to hospital room collecting tips.
Luzon: Dressed as a nurse?
Digest: Dressed as a nurse would be good for tips, I’d think. Okay, so when you got your script, did you feel like, “I have to learn this to the letter,” or did you feel like you could put a little spin on it once you were on set?
Luzon: I knew my lines. It was really great, though, because it was such a fun scene, and the director, Phideaux [Xavier], I think he has a knowledge of drag, enough so that he allowed me to ad-lib a little bit, which was really nice. Now, mind you, we just took a few takes; it’s a soap opera production, they go really fast. So, we wanted it to be as natural and as real as possible without messing up story. It was a pleasure. I’m representing drag as a drag queen and not just an actor in a dress playing a drag queen. It was really nice that they allowed me to stick with almost my own voice in places, but that was really just small ad-libs that may or may not get the cut. I don’t know; I haven’t seen the episode.
Digest: So, in the scene, Alexis and Neil are there, played by Nancy Lee Grahn and Joe Flanigan, and you got to watch them do their thing. What did you think of them and their performance?
Luzon: Nancy is fantastic. It’s really cool to see her come onto set, I was watching her, and she would like click on and turn on her character that she has been playing for so long. It’s like different people; you see her create her character. She really uses every part of the set, the other actors she’s with, she really put together this moment to tell the story. It’s really interesting. And she’s beautiful, she’s got pretty hair and she smells nice.
Digest: She’s going to be so thrilled you said that!
Luzon: And Joe, I’m not so familiar with his character yet, but Joe is just a cool guy and he had a lot of fun in our scenes.
Digest: What kind of reaction did your fan base have when word got out that you’d be appearing on GH?
Luzon: I had no idea what I was getting myself into because this is a completely different audience that I’m used to. When GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Instagram posted the picture of me — at first they were like, “We’re just gonna get ahead of the leaks because it’s going to get out there,” which probably was like, a direct look at me, like, “Mm-hmm, Instagram story!” But they were like, “Let’s let people get excited for it!” And this picture came out and I’m looking at now all these fans of GENERAL HOSPITAL when I’m used to reading comments by people that know me already. So it’s been really interesting to watch the reaction of the GENERAL HOSPITAL fans.
Digest: I don’t know how much crossover there is between the GENERAL HOSPITAL audience and the DRAG RACE audience, but there have got to be other people like me who are like, “I’m so excited, my worlds are colliding!”
Luzon: I think there actually would be because the DRAG RACE fandom has become almost 60 percent women at this point. I’m really excited myself, personally, because like I said before, there aren’t that many roles for drag queens, so, I may not be Shangela or Willam in A Star Is Born, but GENERAL HOSPITAL is legendary! So I’m so excited to be a part of it — and I looked good and I had good lighting, too. I feel like I’m going to be seen by my mom’s friends or my sister’s friends. Hopefully it’s a cute episode. And it’s fun, it really fits the episode and helps make that part of the story fun. GENERAL HOSPITAL is more of a serious show; no one is getting possessed. Yet!
Digest: Yet, right. Not until the next time drag bingo comes around!
Luzon: Yes, but there’s definitely no one evil kidnapping someone in his submarine.
Digest: It’s so funny — when you say that, I know exactly what years you watched DAYS. Now I know what you were doing in the mid to late ’90s.
Luzon (laughs): Exactly.
Digest: What would be your dream soap opera storyline to play out on GENERAL HOSPITAL?
Luzon: I don’t even know! I would probably come in with some horrible disease — like maybe I have glitter cancer [laughs]. As a drag queen, I would want it to be ridiculous, like, maybe I have to have a wig surgically put on my head, or removing my toes so I could fit into smaller shoes. It’d have to be a crazy storyline, nothing too serious. I think that is what is really fun about drag being used in this way. It was just like a fun way to bring a little ridiculousness and make you laugh.