You don't really know RuPaul's Drag Race unless you hear its iconically, legendarily shady sound effects (hi, Shade Button and neck-cracking güiro) on repeat in your sleep. The show's Emmy-nominated Untucked editor Matthew D. Miller, however, actively listens to them on repeat in his waking life, as he tells EW his process of putting together one of the most entertaining aftershows on TV includes reviewing "a few hours" of footage — and consulting a virtual bible of hilarious sounds to pepper throughout new episodes.
"We're always bringing in new ones and finding new ones to change it up. But, it's something we like to have fun with and it kind of fits. It can be a little campy at times, but I think that's all that eclectic thing with drag," Miller explains, adding that season 15's diverse cast (he cites Mistress Isabelle Brooks and Loosey LaDuca as some of the most entertaining queens to edit this year) largely dictates the moment — with heavy input from executive producers and members of RuPaul's team, of course. "You can get away with a lot of things like that. I wouldn't necessarily do that in another show. But, in this show, it just feels right."
For a show that cycles in anywhere between nine and 16 queens per season, Miller finds that the structure lends itself to having "a lot of fun with the sound design," and fans have responded positively over the years. Production company World of Wonder even sells the Shade Button as merch, with the toy recreating the show's memorable cacophony of percussion that often sounds during a queen-on-queen verbal tussle.
MTV 'RuPaul's Drag Race' season 15 cast in 'Untucked'
This season, though, he had more fun scoring lighthearted moments on season 15 of Untucked, like the time Salina EsTitties pulled a spicy Hot Cheetoh out her crotch after the Puffa Please runway, or when he added a small but highly effective "whoop" noise to complement Malaysia Babydoll Foxx's kiki about her lemon drop look on the same episode. It even becomes a spiritual process for the experienced editor, who has two prior Emmys for editing Netflix's Queer Eye.
"You just kind of listen to that inner voice: When it feels right, it feels right," Miller says. "Sometimes a moment just speaks to you and it's like, sound effect time. At the same time, it's a balance; you don't want to overload it so much that you're distracting from the story. You can use a good thing too much, and it can get old. Sometimes on the first pass of things, it might be overloaded and we end up pulling back."
A particular moment he enjoyed working on involved one of Loosey's many bouts with, as Mistress calls it, "Drag Delusion," on the Daytona Wind sequel episode.
"I've been there too, by the way, and she just couldn't let it go — it just kept coming back that she thought she should've been in the top," Miller says with a laugh. "Part of me felt like her not being able to let it go may be a little cringey in a way, but also, I found it relatable and endearing as well. It's showing how she really believes in herself."
MTV (2) Loosey LaDuca and Mistress Isabelle Brooks on 'RuPaul's Drag Race: Untucked'
Though most of the effects live in a file on a computer, Miller confirms that most of them are as real as they come.
"It is a real organic noise — I can tell that it's not made on a synthesizer or anything," he says of the güiro, which is often used during a moment of confusion or inquisition. "There are a lot of percussive-type instruments like that that can be used comedically.... It's fun. I try not to just put it in because I'm like, oh, it's been a long time since I've heard a sound effect. I tend to let the queen or the moment speak to me in terms of the sound effects, if that makes sense."
Miller's also aware that, as much fun as viewers have with his sonic sound effect tapestries, queens — and fans — will sometimes target the editing team if they don't like how something went down on TV. But, invoking RuPaul's infamous song, Miller urges all: "Don't blame it on the edit," he says.
"We try to tell the most authentic story we can, and we have 20 minutes to do that," he says of Untucked. "We take a very documentary approach to telling these stories and having it be as well-rounded as possible. Luckily these queens are incredibly well-rounded individuals with layers to their drag and their backstories. We like to have as much of that come through as possible."