Mark Indelicato surprised himself with how far he made it on RuPaul’s Celebrity Drag Race. The Ugly Betty alum made it to the final two alongside Backstreet Boys sensation AJ McLean and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air alum Tatyana Ali. But it wasn’t without hardship. He faced elimination a few times and admits the competition was taxing. Regardless, transforming into Thirsty Von Trapp opened his eyes. Shadow and Act Unscripted spoke with the actor about his journey on the show ahead of the live finale, in which McLean, aka Poppy Love, took home the crown.

S&A Unscripted: So, first of all, congratulations on making it to the final three. But how did your participation in the show come about, and what was your initial reaction?

MI: They just asked me to do it. And I was shocked, truly. I was just like, ‘Oh, my God, they really want me to do it?’ And my friends and I are such fans of the show and have been for many years. So to get the opportunity to participate was, was awesome. It was so great. 

S&A Unscripted: What was your level of knowledge or education about drag culture before the show, and what have you learned about it since being on the show?

MI: I was a huge fan of Drag Race. But friends of mine, in New York, are drag queens. In college, I spent a lot of time at drag shows and seeing firsthand the hustle that goes on, and in being a queen in New York City, at least. I guess that you just never really know how hard something is going to be until you actually are strapped into the heels and the corset and everything. It’s extremely physically demanding. And I think that that’s pretty easy to see. When you see queens perform, the things that they do are extraordinary. To then be put into their shoes literally was it was physically demanding. I mean, I was exhausted. 

S&A Unscripted: What was it like working with your coaches? How do you feel as if they added to your overall experience on the show?

MI: Well, I think with practice with anything, you start to become more comfortable. I was literally shaking before I went on stage for episode one. I was so scared and so nervous and just so unsure of myself. And I think that that was something that did carry throughout the season. I think that one of my biggest issues was not being confident in myself and feeling inadequate. But I think that by the time we got to like the Snatch Game episode and Gaga and then the finale, I was just feeling more comfortable just because I had done it for so many weeks. 

You get used to the stage, you get used to the format, you get used to that. You get used to being in drag for that long and having people like Monet [X Change] and Juju[bee] and Brooke Lnn Heights and Jamal and they’re there to help all of us. They were there to kind of cheer like the cheerleaders in so many ways. And also, I think that it was really amazing to see the way that Jamal [Sims] kind of choreographed for all of us, because some of us are stronger dancers than others. Some of us have physical limitations or whatever. And I think that Jamal was just incredible in helping us look the best while also acknowledging our physical limitations – dance limitations. So I really appreciated that. 

S&A Unscripted: What do you feel like contributed to you getting so far into the competition?

MI: Honestly, I really don’t have an answer for you. Every time I was in the bottom, I was just like, ‘Wow, this is it. OK, this was fun.’ If I had to think of anything, I would say that I took the competition seriously because I have respect for the art of drag. But I didn’t really take it that seriously in terms of wanting to win. It was very much like, ‘I’m here to do something that I’m never going to have an opportunity to do again.’ Or if I did have an opportunity to do again. I don’t know if I would do it because I know what it’s like to do it. And because it was just so exhausting and time-consuming and nerve-wracking. But I think that there was a sense of women’s equality to it. 

When I was in the bottom, it was like ‘I guess I’ll just do this lip sync and see what happens.’ And I think that if I applied that kind of like resolve to my actual numbers that were choreographed, I think I might have I might have maybe won more than one challenge. But I think that just not taking it too seriously – we all are there to have fun, and drag is not my trade job. Drag is not my job. It doesn’t really matter.

S&A Unscripted: And going into the final performances alongside the other two that made it to the final three, what did you feel were AJ McLean and Tatyana Ali’s strong points?

MI: Well, I think that AJ obviously has the dance ability that could outshine Tayana on any day, partly because he is a pop star and has been one for 30 years. Tatyana has this kind of energy that draws you to her. You want to watch her. You can sense kindness in her eyes and her heart. She’s an amazing lip singer. She connects with the audience and the camera really well. 

And I think that for me, I wanted to play up what I went into the competition, thinking that first was about exploring things with the character. But I wanted to go back to episode one, and she’s hot, delusional, and unbothered. And I think that my final number really represents that. And I had a really good time. She’s a little slutty, and she’s a little mean, and she’s really, really pretty. And I wanted to showcase that.

S&A Unscripted: What are your overall takeaways from your experience on the show?

MI: I made some really great new friends. I think that I had an opportunity to do something that I would have never had otherwise or again. I’m just really grateful that I got a chance to feel what it was like to be a drag queen for those eight weeks. It was a lot, and it was very rewarding, very rewarding to be a part of it at all. But it was very it was even more rewarding to make it as far as I did.