A Fiendish Conversation with Jerick Hoffer
The Seattle drag star is ready for his reality TV moment.
This may be the year that one of Seattle’s biggest exports is a drag queen. Jerick Hoffer—a 25-year-old actor known around Capitol Hill as Jinkx Monsoon—will compete to be America’s Next Drag Superstar on the new season of reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race (premiering January 28 on Logo). But take off the eye makeup and wig, and Hoffer is still a big deal: one of the rising stars in Seattle’s musical theater scene who's been noticed of late for his turns as Moritz in Balagan Theatre’s Spring Awakening and Angel in Rent at 5th Avenue Theatre.
Hoffer merges his two worlds this month as the star queen in John Cameron Mitchell’s glam-rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, opening at the Moore on January 15. As a warm-up, Hoffer will appear as Hedwig—backed by rock band the Angry Inch—to play the show’s music tonight at the Sunset.
For our latest Fiendish Conversation, we chatted with Hoffer about his reality TV moment, balancing acting and drag, and Seattle’s weirdos.
Do you have a favorite Hedwig performance or did you try to come at the character with a blank slate?
The only Hedwig I’ve ever seen is John Cameron Mitchell in the movie. I’ve never gotten to see a live performance of Hedwig even though this is my second time doing the show. So my favorite is John Cameron Mitchell, but I’m going into Hedwig just like with any play I take on. I try to treat it like it’s a new piece and it’s never been done before. I take certain consciousness about what’s iconic about this character and what people are probably going to expect from certain moments in the play… but not let that dominate the way I work on the piece.
Where do you feel like you fall in the performance spectrum? Do you consider yourself more of a drag star, an actor, or some mix of the two?
I consider myself 50/50. I’ve been really lucky because I’ve been able to balance the two careers. Being a drag queen is very different from being an actress. They’re both very different, very specific worlds. I’ve been really lucky that I got to combine the two by doing a certain amount of drag in Rent as Angel and Hedwig is a fully drag character. And I’ve played female roles in the past where I’m doing full drag, but I’m playing a female character in the show. … I like to consider myself a drag queen actress, not one or the other.
How has Seattle had an impact on your art?
I think Seattle has so many different kinds of unique performance art going on. We have such a flourishing drag scene, and a burlesque scene, and a theatre scene, and a music scene, and a dance scene. I think there’s so much versatility and variety in Seattle that you can really do just whatever you want. If you can find a way to take a performance and make it stage-worthy, Seattle audiences have a really open mind. I think the fact that there’s so many other creative weirdos out there continuing to push the envelope … With the Northwest being kind of a progressive, liberal, hippie, weirdo kind of place, I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of freedom in my years developing as an actor and as a drag queen to just kind of explore all kinds of stuff. I never felt like there’s anything I can’t explore.
What were the best performances you’ve seen around Seattle in the past year?
I just did the show Homo for the Holidays with a performance group called DeLouRue Presents, which includes Kitten LaRue (who is a big time burlesque producer in town) and Ben DeLaCreme, who’s another singing performance drag queen, and the Cherdonna and Lou Show—which is a two-person modern dance duo—and my music partner, Major Scales. Those are some of my favorite performers in Seattle and have been since I moved here. I think there are a lot of really talented queer performance artists who don’t get as much attention as the mainstream theaters, but are doing really, really high level, high concept work.
How did you get involved in RuPaul’s Drag Race?
It’s a pretty lengthy audition and training process. Once you decide that you want to audition, you have to fill out a bunch of paperwork and sign a bunch of non-disclosure stuff and then create a 12-minute audition video. From that point on, they interview you and screen you and kind of feel you out for the show. And then once you go on, you just pick up and leave. You have to just disappear from your own life for an undetermined amount of time.
I’m going to be on the fifth season—which starts January 28—but I had considered auditioning for the last three seasons. I was very close to auditioning for season four and kind of talked myself out of it. When you go on, you’re putting yourself out there for a whole bunch of criticism that you may not be used to in your own community. I think anyone who wants to be a drag queen can find their own way into the art form, but it takes a certain amount of skill, and talent, and tenacity, and thick skin to really rise to the top. And that’s what the competition kind of does—it tests you on those kinds of things. It can be very, very daunting to put yourself out there to be critiqued: to be judged not only by the judges on the show but by the drag community at large. I had to feel like I was 100 percent ready to go into that, and this year was the first time I ever felt that way.
At this point, what are your goals as a performer?
My personal goal is to be the first drag queen actor to win a Tony for a prominent female role on Broadway.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch Concert
Jan 7, Sunset Tavern, $6
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Jan 15–27, Moore Theatre, $18–$33