Jonny Beauchamp Drags ‘Katy Keene’ Into Its Fiercest Episode Yet
Katy Keene is the gift that keeps on giving us reasons to sing its praises. Bright, funny and frisky, the anti-Riverdale spinoff has, every week, built upon its shiny, happy conceit of the titular aspiring fashion designer (Lucy Hale) and Bonne Nuit escapee Josie McCoy (Ashleigh Murray) chasing their dreams in the big city.
Layering in the slow-burn machinations of Anna Delvey-ish Warhol wannabe Pepper Smith (the fascinating Julia Chan), the V.C. Andrews-ish Cabot siblings (Camille Hyde and Lucien Laviscount) and the refreshingly sweet lug of boxer, K.O. Kelly (Zane Holtz), Katy keeps things interesting by slathering a glossy, glittery surface over immensely likable characters who often make terrible choices. But for all the drama—and oh is there drama!—nothing is taken too seriously for too long. And there’s not too much that can’t be cured with a sassy musical number.
Tonight, that charm is on full display, as is Katy’s dazzling secret weapon, Jonny Beauchamp. Not enough has, or could, be written about the Penny Dreadful alum who is pulling double duty as Broadway wannabe Jorge Lopez and his drag persona, Ginger Lopez. Beauchamp is a fizzy cocktail of wit, vocal prowess and a charm that is abundant on and off-screen. So it’s fitting that he would be the driving force within the show’s most musical hour so far.
Determined to give Ginger the spotlight she deserves, Jorge hatches a plan with Pepper to put on a “one-queen” production of Kander & Ebb’s 1993 Tony-winning “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” Of course, with a cast that includes crooners in Hale and Murray (as well as a few others who get in on the action), there’s plenty of songs to go around…even one Jorge has to hand one over to Miss McCoy.
We sat down with Beauchamp on the season’s last day of shooting to talk about Jorge’s journey, his complicated family ties, how different the character is from other drag representations in scripted TV, and what fans can expect from Spider Woman. He even snuck in a tease about what is coming up and we’re pretty sure it has to do with something that goes down in the episode’s not-to-be-missed final moments.
OK, so I love that Jorge slays. He’s getting gigs, he’s got Ginger, he’s getting guys…
Jonny Beauchamp: Well, you know. [Laughs]
And this hot fireman, Bernardo. It’s so great that he initially met Jorge as Ginger and was into totally down! How long does he stick around?
Oh, Mr. Bernardo? [Laughs] He sticks around for a while. Also, I feel like Jorge doesn’t put up boundaries between him and Ginger, as well. He’s a free agent in any capacity. Ginger is not afraid to seek out guys, which sometimes there’s a bit of a stigma. It’s getting less and less, I think. Today, people are a lot more into drag queens now as rock stars, icons, and just people to follow on social media shows.
Drag really is having a moment now.
Yeah. People are now hungry for it and they like it. It’s no longer super-niche. It’s kind of getting more and more broad, which is awesome. But what I loved was that our writers just really trust us and our characters. And they trust our audience.
Both of your characters are so lovable. But what is it like balancing Jorge, who is a little bit more sensitive, and Ginger…
[Laughs] Ginger is more fearless! Jorge is pretty fearless as is. He’s more fearless than I am. Maybe a tad naive, but it’s serving him, I think. But Ginger is his armor. And so when he’s Ginger, nothing can hold him back. He says exactly what he thinks. He does exactly what he wants and he’s a lot more bold. And so for me, it’s actually not difficult at all. The shoes dictate how I move. That’s my way into things.
You get to perform so much as well. Always singing!
I know. They can’t shut me up. [Laughs] Singing is the first thing I think I learned how to do. When I was little, no one ever liked it and no one ever said I was a good singer, so I never thought I was any good. I was like, well, “I better find another thing,” you know? So I started acting so that I could sing in musicals or whatever. And then I ended up getting bitten by the bug doing plays and stuff. But music’s always been a part of Jonny.
Do you get to help pick some of the songs that Ginger performs.
At first, they were all just brought to me and it was just like, “Oh my God, that’s my favorite song… and oh my God, that’s my favorite song.” And then there were a few opportunities where the writers or Michael [Grassi, showrunner] came up to me, asking “What are you thinking about this? We’re thinking about a number here. We’re thinking about that.” And I’m the queen of suggestions, honey! I got a pad and I just jot things down. They’re going to probably block my number because I’m constantly suggesting things.
You and Ashleigh Murray get to perform together in the musical episode.
Yes, yes, in such an awesome way.
Well, “Kiss of the Spider Woman” is such a great idea for you to do.
It’s actually one that is so dear to my heart. I think I may have mentioned it [on set], but no one really remembered me bringing it up. But offhandedly, I had talked about “Jonny, what are your favorite musicals? What are things you’d like to do in your career?” I don’t think anybody heard it so it just kind of was kismet that that was the one chosen. I won’t say that it’s super well-known right now, but if you know it, you really know it. And everybody who knows about it, they just don’t really know what it is about. It’s really cool.
Most people think it was a movie and then it was a musical…
And a book and a play. And so it’s all these kinds of different things. Manuel Puig wrote this amazing, amazing novel that’s just taken on so many forms.
And of course, there’s off-stage drama?
I liked it that Jorge was kind of snobby in the episode and kind of really a little bit selfish. He was like, “No, no, no. This is my moment. This is me.” He was really hurt by the fact of having to share [the spotlight]. But then, we’re all friends and we learn from everything and he ends up really loving sharing the stage with Josie. That was actually his favorite part of it. He even says to Bernardo afterwards that “my favorite part of the night was sharing this moment with Josie and my friends and my family.” I think that’s a really awesome growth moment for Jorge.
How does this play into Jorge’s father (Frank Pando) finding out about Ginger?
Well, I think, I think it’s around this time because there’s a really specific event that happens post-show that will lead us into the next couple episodes as well. There’s something kind of rough that happens, which is really cool. But I think I get caught, I just kind of get caught. At first it’s just like, “Oh, this thing that my son does for money that he does this and shows…”
Oh my god like the scene in “A Chorus Line” where was Paul was discovered.
YES! I didn’t know if you’s copy that, but Jorge seems to be very Paul, which is like another dream role. So it was kind of awesome.
This is still tough for Jorge, because culturally, this is not okay.
Not really. It’s 2020, people have come so far. I’m thinking, too, of how my mother and my grandmother have supported me always. It took getting used to. It was tough, especially coming from a religious background, but I was lucky enough to have family support from these two very strong women. I was raised by women. Maybe that helped me in my confidence in life. Because I know that that’s not the case for a lot of people.
I know in the season finale, you have some very emotional stuff with dad.
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. There’s a reason why Luis is really against Ginger and against Jorge kind of leading that path of life. Luis is fine with Jorge being gay, that’s never been the problem. They knew when I was a kid. But there is a deeper reason behind that and it is revealed in the final episode.
Jorge and Ginger represent a whole new level of inclusion. Have you prepared yourself for those little kids that need to see these characters?
You know, this has never really happened to me before, but we were shooting downtown and I actually got a couple kids who kind of recognized me. I was like, “Wow.” Because [at the time], we had done a little bit of promo here and there. I wasn’t expecting that. I’m sure they saw the production signs on the street and were like, “Oh, you’re in Katy Keene.” I don’t think they really recognized me. I think they just recognize that we’re doing the show. And so, that was really good and they’ve seen the poster, obviously.
Ginger is a character who can really help inform young kids, that drag queens aren’t punchlines.
I really hope so, thank you. I think that Jorge definitely is clownish. He’s very funny, he’s got a good quips. Ginger’s sassy. There’s lots of fun stuff, just like everyone’s friends. But then there is a seriousness, and there’s an aggressiveness as well. It’s just like us. We’re complicated. Some days you’re really confident and you got your own back, and other days you fall into the storm that is emotions and insecurities and you do the things we’re not supposed to do.
Have you gotten to actually see any real shows while you’re filming? It’s not like you have hours that get you out in time to see a show…
Oh, you can’t keep me from it, darling. But you know what? I’ll tell you one thing that’s really weird about this experience. I’m a New Yorker, so I never go to the theater on a weekend. I always avoid because the two-show days—and the weekend crowd—there is difference. It’s a little bit of different of a performance. My days to go to the theater are Tuesday or Thursday. Those are my days for the theater. But lately, I’ve had to go to a lot of weekend things…so I’ve become like a matinee boy. I saw Moulin Rouge on a matinee and Karen Olivo is amazing. I love Karen Olivo. It’s her show, dude. I love that. And some opera as well, I’ve gone to some opera matinees which I was nervous because I’m like, “Are they warm? It’s 1:00 PM.” You know what I’m saying? But I’ve done it!.
Katy Keene, Thursdays, 8/7c, The CW