TV

The “Queer Eye” Fab Five on Their Heartbreaking Honky-Tonk Reunion

"We honestly didn't even think the episode was going to air," reveals Bobby Berk about the Season 6 premiere.

Spoilers ahead for Queer Eye Season 6

It is rare for a television show to feel more relevant than ever in its sixth season, but that’s exactly what Queer Eye accomplishes in its newest batch of episodes, out now on Netflix.

Like every other film and TV production, filming for Queer Eye was put on pause in early 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, and Jonathan Van Ness, a.k.a the Fab Five, had just started filming their new season in Austin, Texas, when the world came to a screeching halt.

“I feel like the world collectively shut down,” JVN, the group’s resident grooming and beauty expert, tells Logo. “I was like, ’I don’t want to touch anybody.’ I was starting to be like, ’Let’s touch elbows,’ and I was like, ’How’s this going to work?'” And then by Friday, they were just like, ’We’re shutting her down now.'”
 

“It was the week of my birthday, so my boyfriend flew from New York to come visit me,” Queer Eye foodie Antoni Porowski recalls. “There was so much that we didn’t know. We just heard about this little virus that was going on. And when we’re filming, it’s really long hours, so I don’t really look at the news. I’m a little detached, and I just stay really focused on the job at hand… [My boyfriend] was meant to come for two days, and he’s like, ’I’m going to pack for five days because I feel like I might have to stay there a few extra days.'”

Porowski’s BF was right: New York quickly emerged as a COVID-19 hotspot, and the couple ended up spending three months hunkered down in Austin.

Terri White — or “Ter Bear,” as Jonathan calls her — is this season’s first “hero.” She is a fiery, energetic, and stubborn dance instructor at her family’s famous honky-tonk, the Broken Spoke. The Fab Five only had one day left of filming with Terri before COVID-19 forced production to shut down. They returned to the Broken Spoke in March 2021, a year later, to reunite with Terri and see if she followed the Fab Five’s advice. In the year since they saw each other, Terri had suffered two deaths in her family: her father and her son-in-law, making for an emotional reunion with the Queer Eye crew.

“I was so happy until I found out how much Ter Bear in her family had been through… I was really excited for us to be back together until that bit of news, but then we ended up being happy again,” says Van Ness.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/Netflix

“It was very emotional,” adds Berk, the show’s interior designer. “Terri was probably one of the hardest heroes we’ve ever had. She was very stubborn. I say all this out of love. She did not want to change. She was set in her ways and she was not about to give a fuck about what we had to say. So on one hand we were very apprehensive and nervous because we’re like, ’Is this still going to be very combative Terri, who didn’t hear anything we said to her?’ Because in the moment, back in 2020, we felt like nothing we said to her sunk in — like, nothing.”

Porowski gets chills when he thinks back on the day when they resumed filming and returned to the Broken Spoke to reunite with Terri: “Usually when the five of us are driving to a hero, we’re always so lively and caffeinated and talking over each other. It’s just such chaos. And it was like a deafening silence when we were going back. I only speak for myself, but I definitely felt the energy in the car where it was like, ’Well, yeah. We were here a year ago.’ I was interested to see, what has she kept up? What has she not kept up? What does her family situation look like? What’s her relationship with her daughter and her grandson and all of that? And to find out that she lost her father and that her daughter lost her husband, it was just… I was trying to keep my shit together, but it’s impossible for me to keep my feelings in.”

Berk even thought that Terri’s episode would be “scrapped” entirely, so when the Fab Five returned to the Broken Spoke, there was “a lot of apprehension because we didn’t really know what to expect from her.”

“We had heard about the things that had happened in the last year, and so we had known about the heartbreaks and the turmoils that she’d been through. So going in there, there was a lot of emotion because on one hand, we were very sad for what she had been through,” explains Berk. “But on another hand, we were very happy that the things that we said to her did sink in. And especially a lot of the things that Karamo helped her and her daughter with, really helped them through all the situations that they had been through in the last year.”

Ilana Panich-Linsman/Netflix

While a pandemic proved to be a problem for the filming of a TV show, Tan France, the show’s style guru, feels that it resulted in Queer Eye’s most powerful season yet: “The reason why this season, in my opinion, felt powerful and really important is because when we got back, the pandemic wasn’t over, but we were dealing with people who were just starting to get back into the workplace, seeing family and friends again. These were people had been through so much. Normally our show, we’re focusing on a person, a family, a household. This time, it really does feel like our biggest season. We’re really focusing on community.”

Brown, the show’s culture expert, tells Logo he loves how Queer Eye didn’t “shy away from showing really what people were going through.”

“You actually really see it,” he continues. “Even in that first episode [of Season 6]. For us to be seen in March of 2020, and then to see us come back and in the car — I got chills, the moment I watched it when you see us and it’s a year later, and we’re back in the car. You see how silent we are because we literally had just seen each other and we’re like, ’Okay, girl, we’re back. Are we going to be safe? Are things going to go back to normal?’ Because that’s what we were all feeling, and I think that’s one of the beauties of Queer Eye is that we hit on what everyone else is feeling, and we give space for it so that we can all cry through it, laugh through it, and just be grateful for it.”

Queer Eye Season 6 is streaming now on Netflix.

I write about drag queens. Dolly Parton once ruffled my hair and said I was "just the cutest thing ever."
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