Queer Eye’s Fab Five continue to inspire us season after season. For season 5, which premiered June 5 on Netflix, the Fab Five headed to Philadelphia to meet a whole new set of heroes. Once again, they transformed people’s lives in everything from house design to clothes to culture.
HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with Bobby Berk about the highly-anticipated fifth season. He opened up about how the first episode of the season helped him realize he’s better at “dealing with the pain of my past” when it comes to his religion upbringing. The design guru also discussed the challenges of remodeling a restaurant, season 6, and what new things to expect on his lifestyle site.
Each episode focuses on amazing heroes. What’s it been like for you to balance your role in design while also being a guide for these heroes as they start this next chapter. I imagine there’s a little bit of pressure there.
Bobby Berk: There’s definitely a lot of pressure. There’s always a lot of pressure in my regular design life, making sure that I am creating a home and space that is going to most better the person’s life who’s going to be living in it. It’s just amplified on Queer Eye because it’s usually a person who’s in a situation that they can’t necessarily make those changes that can make their life better. We’re in the very humbling, unique, and lucky position to be able to be a fairy godmother, no pun intended, that can come in and make their home nice. It definitely is a lot of pressure. I take my role very seriously because the things that I do for them really will affect their day to day life every day as well as their family.
Were there any major challenges for you design-wise in season 5 that you hadn’t seen before?
Bobby Berk: We did a restaurant. I’m sure you know, I go in a few weeks before, and I have to put a game plan together. There is construction and flooring… with the amount of remodeling that we do we have to have a plan. Everything that goes into making it very personal for them happens that week, but I need to know if I’ve got to take out a wall. This year for season 5, we did a restaurant. My team and I went in there about 2 weeks before, and we made a plan of what was going to happen. And then I get a call the day before we’re filming from one of our producers in a panic. They were like, “So Marco’s decided to do some remodeling on his own. The walls that were there are no longer, and there’s now a massive hole in the floor. He’s also removed the ceiling.” Doing a restaurant, there are already additional complications surrounding it because it’s a restaurant. There are health codes there, commercial codes. There’s way more I have to take into consideration when doing a commercial special, especially a food space. So that really threw a wrench in things.
The first episode of season 5 was such a beautiful episode with Pastor Noah. You’ve been open in the past about your religious upbringing. Did that journey with Pastor Noah didn’t leave a lasting impact on you?
Bobby Berk: If you notice my outfit in the beginning, I was in a gold lamé Phillip Lim tracksuit because I felt like I needed to wear something that would be fire retardant just in case. But the journey I would say hasn’t changed my opinion on religion. It’s probably helped me have a little more peace with some of the trauma that religion has caused in my life, but I wouldn’t say it’s changed my opinion. It’s just helped me be at peace a little more with what I’ve been through with religion.
That’s completely understandable. You also got to transform Noah’s church sanctuary. What was that process like for you?
Bobby Berk: Obviously, I wish I could have done more. It was such a beautiful, old building. When it comes to things like that, I have through the seasons learned to be able to separate that now. With Mama Tammye in the beginning, it very hard for me to separate my job as a designer doing a church. I’ve gotten better at that now. I looked at it as a fun, architectural challenge. I wish I could have done more. I actually found pictures of what it used to look like. Apparently what happened in the 70s and 80s was a horrible remodel choice, and a lot of the beautiful aspects of the sanctuary had been taken out and covered up. I wish I had a few weeks or a few months to really revitalize that church because it’s so pretty, but I’ve learned how to separate emotions at this point.
Throughout the journey of this season, was there anything that you learned about yourself?
Bobby Berk: I definitely learned, especially with the Pastor Noah episode, that I’m a little bit better at dealing with the pain of my past and helping to use those pains to help other people. If you go back to season 2 with Mama Tammye, that was not a fun week. I was not really able to separate those emotions, but I’ve learned now that I can.
The Fab Five went to Philadelphia for season 5. What made that the perfect place for you all to go and were there other cities in contention for this fifth season?
Bobby Berk: It’s funny how much say you guys all think we have. Philly was chosen by the network for many reasons. We really actually have zero say in where we get to go. Not to say that we weren’t absolutely excited to be in Philly. Philly was an amazing city. They welcomed us with open arms. I love being in a city that has such a rich history like Philly and such a diverse population. Philly was great, but as far as the reasons for going to Philly, we have no idea.
Queer Eye has been renewed for season 6. Did you get to film any of the new season before production shut down?
Bobby Berk: We got through almost one episode. Things were shut down because of COVID, but we’ll be back. I’m not sure exactly when but definitely sometime this year we’ll be back.
How have you and the rest of the Fab Five been keeping up with each other in quarantine?
Bobby Berk: I was on FaceTime with Jonathan [Van Ness] for probably an hour or so yesterday. We’re keeping in contact with FaceTime. Karamo [Brown] and I had a nice little social distancing tiki from across the yard last weekend because we both live in LA. Karamo and I have gotten with each other and we can socially distance because he luckily has a really big backyard. But the other boys, I’ve just been talking on FaceTime.
You launched your lifestyle site last year, and it’s such an incredible website. What do you have planned for it this year?
Bobby Berk: We will be launching a direct to consumer e-commerce on it this year as well. We have a shopping area, but it was mainly just like my favorite things that would refer to other websites for people to find. We’re now going to start pairing just my products for direct to consumer. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from customers saying that they prefer not to have to click through to find where to find it. They’d rather just go right there to find it. So we’re launching an e-commerce division on the site. We’re constantly expanding new content. We’re going to start doing cooking show segments. I’m building out a beautiful new office space over by Lake Hollywood that will have a beautiful new kitchen studio, and we’ll be doing a lot more video content that we’re very excited about.