Though the stars of "Queer Eye" "don't want" the upcoming third season of their Netflix hit to be a "major departure" from the previous two seasons, the cast's skyrocketing fame has undoubtedly affected the show.
Antoni Porowski and Tan France, two of the Fab Five, explained that their increased notoriety creates different reactions between them and the so-called "heroes" being made-over on "Queer Eye," but they've made a conscious effort during filming this summer to take steps to combat that change.
"For the most part, they’ve seen the show and know what it is," Antoni told AOL's Gibson Johns during a recent sit-down on behalf of Excedrin. "Fans of the show approach it in many different ways: Some are just really excited and have a personal story to share about, like, their little brother who came out to their parents after seeing the A.J. episode, which f-cking pulls at your heart and makes you want to snot cry. And then there are people who get very afraid, because there’s this weird phenomenon where people get scared with people that are public and you stop them in their tracks."
Tan added that it's not just their newfound "celebrity" titles that have altered the show, either: It's also the popularity of the show itself, which is available to stream on Netflix in countries all around the world. The idea of being watched by millions of people across the globe isn't always lost on the show's subjects.
"Some of them also realize how big the show is globally," he explained to us. "It was a very different experience last year, where they thought, 'Maybe nobody will watch this.' Now, they know that people are watching and they walk into this room with us and realize, ‘Oh sh-t, these cameras don’t just mean five people in the room -- they means millions are watching.'"
Because of this altered dynamic, Antoni, Tan and the rest of the Fab Five have been determined to make sure that they're still completely plugged in during filming, so that they can continue to create the emotional connections with their heroes that define the show. Without those connections, the show would lose its heart.
"I have been extra conscious even when the cameras aren’t rolling," Antoni said. "Sometimes you check out and it’s an opportunity to check your phone and find out what else is going on, because our phones are blowing up all the time now. But, what I realized is that, you actually have to stay connected with the hero and, this is weird to say, you have to humanize yourself so that they don’t see you as a concept and they see you as an actual individual."
Both Tan and Antoni agreed that they're "enjoying it more this year because it's more of a challenge" that requires each of them to "really have to go for" that connection. That being said, they've both come to understand the pressures of being a public personality and the expectations to always be "on."
"We are very grateful and lucky for the jobs we have, but it’s exhausting being Tan France and Antoni Porowski 12 hours a day in the public eye and living up to what people expect you to be," Tan explained, noting that he combats that stress with Excedrin. "They see a version of you on TV, and they want to see that on the street or at a panel or an event and to keep that up is exhausting."
Another thing that has made that pressure more manageable is the way in which the show was embraced this summer by the people of Kansas City, where the third season was filmed.
"Kansas City could not have been more welcoming to us," Antoni said. "They have gay pride colors on one of their main buildings that apparently went up for us, and they still shine every single night, and seeing that at night is kind of amazing. They’ve been opening their businesses and their homes and all of these public spaces that we get to use, and we want to showcase the city."
Both Tan and Antoni admitted that the show could theoretically be filmed anywhere in the country, but they also acknowledged that there were experiences specific to the South and the Midwest that they noticed in their heroes.
"The experience of what they were exposed to when they were younger was different," Tan said. "For example, in Georgia they had more people of color at school, whereas in Kansas City a lot of these people haven’t had that."
"The public sphere is certainly different, but I think the private sphere -- in terms of family dynamics and the way people are exploring growing up -- those stories are very similar," Antoni added. "There’s a universality there."