Drew Droege is so prolific on YouTube that he doesn't even know how many videos he's done. The comedic actor has impersonated Chloe Sevigny and ex–Charlie's Angel Tanya Roberts, voiced an animated unicorn and depicted enough bitchy gay men to rival RuPaul's Drag Race. He has been developing personalities online for a decade.
Growing up in North Carolina, Droege, 41, watched The Carol Burnett Show, Saturday Night Live and In Living Color. He was especially inspired by Doug Liman's 1999 film Go, which included the movie debut of a then–little known Melissa McCarthy, a Groundlings alumna.
Droege moved to Los Angeles that same year and immediately enrolled in the improv school/theater. He joined the Groundlings' Sunday Company and LGBTQ improv team The Gale, and is currently an instructor.
In 2002, Droege read a particularly pretentious interview with indie film's then–It girl, Sevigny. “She was name-dropping so many esoteric, hyper-literate references,” recalls Droege, who lives in Beachwood Canyon. “I thought, 'This is so bizarre.'”
So he put on a blond wig and mimicked Sevigny in theaters and at TV auditions. No one understood the act. It was the early 2000s. Hipsters hadn't yet dominated pop culture, and most Americans didn't know the difference between Balenciaga and Banana Republic.
Years later, Droege started posting videos of himself as Sevigny, and an Internet star was born. “Before digital comedy, you would just go into an office, pitch ideas to people and they would say yes or no,” he says. “In digital, you do what you want. There's no middleman. There's an audience for everything.”
More an original character than an imitation, Droege's Sevigny is a symbol of Americans' growing obsession with all things high-concept. The videos — nearly 50 of them — have made Droege so popular that he's officiated a wedding as the actress and even appeared in a 2016 Marc Jacobs campaign.
“It totally changed my life,” he says. “It put me on the map.”
Onstage at Silver Lake's Cavern Club, Droege has embodied all sorts of larger-than-life women, whether it's Vogue villain Miranda Priestly in The Unauthorized Musical Parody of The Devil Wears Prada, mean girl Nellie Oleson in Prairie-Oke! or ditzy Golden Girl Rose Nylund in the long-running Golden Girlz Live. But Droege doesn't consider himself a drag queen. “I never set out to do that. I'm into the essence of the character.”
Droege is even more gifted at portraying vapid and snarky gay men, especially in Not Looking, a hilarious parody — and another of his web series — of short-lived HBO drama Looking. “Most TV and film are really afraid of portraying gay people as enemies,” he says. “But I'm not interested in playing likable people. It's a lot more fun to be villains and assholes. We have to not lose our sense of humor, intelligence and context. It's all about intention.”
Droege is now playing a recurring role as a drama teacher in Paramount Network's TV version of Heathers, premiering July 10. And he recently finished the New York run of his one-man show, Bright Colors and Bold Patterns, directed by actor Michael Urie (Ugly Betty). Written in 2013, the year gay marriage was legalized in California, the play centers on a lonely and caustic guest on the eve of a gay wedding in Palm Springs — where everyone is asked to resist wearing “bright colors and bold patterns” — who's not only conflicted about marriage equality but the normalization of queer identity.
“Of course, I was thrilled,” Droege says of gay marriage, “but I wondered, what are we losing in the name of equality and trying to keep up with the Joneses, or rather, keep up with the straights? Because that's what it feels like we're doing. We're taking away our brightness and boldness in the name of conformity.”