Jameela Jamil and Dashaun Wesley address 'Legendary' controversy: 'All I ever wanted was to make sure that this show got made'

You might say that Jameela Jamil’s first day on the set of Legendary was — wait for it — legendary. “I was drunk accidentally during Episode 1,” the actress-turned-judge on HBO Max’s new voguing competition series confesses to Yahoo Entertainment. “They switched our drinks, so I want to apologize for however I am in the pilot. [I took a drink] just as they were about to say action. I didn’t know where I could spit it out! I wasn’t going to spit it down my gown, so I swallowed over two shots of straight liquor. I had a hangover the next day.” (Watch our video interview above.)

Based on the first episode, which premiered May 27, neither the audience nor Jamil’s fellow judges — Law Roach, Leiomy Maldonado and Megan Thee Stallion — noticed anything amiss. And Legendary’s breakout emcee, Dashaun Wesley, definitely had no idea that she was judging under the accidental influence. “I think Jameela did an amazing job,” he says, singing her praises. “A lot of people would love to have that opportunity to sit there, but they don’t know the job you have to do once you get there.”

Law Roach, Megan Thee Stallion, Jameela Jamil and Leiomy Maldonado judge contestants on the new ballroom competition series, 'Legendary' (Photo: Zach Dilgard/HBO Max)
Law Roach, Megan Thee Stallion, Jameela Jamil and Leiomy Maldonado judge contestants on the new ballroom competition series, Legendary. (Photo: Zach Dilgard/HBO Max)

Jamil had other reasons for feeling out of sorts on her first day. “It was also when the controversy was going down around me. The controversy kicked off on Day 1 of the show, so I was on that stage feeling so scared and so self-conscious and drunk.” The controversy she’s referring to flared up when a press release from HBO Max’s parent company, WarnerMedia, mistakenly identified The Good Place star as both a judge and the MC of Legendary. That inspired a wave of online backlash questioning her presence on the show. Jamil eventually responded to it on Twitter with a widely-read post where she revealed herself as queer.

“I freaked out when it all happened,” Jamil says now, adding that she almost quit the series. “I did this to try and help the show — I didn’t want to hurt the show. I didn’t want to give the show any kind of bad stigma. I said to the producers, ‘Maybe just don’t have me involved.’” But Wesley wasn’t about to let her walk away. “You are not going anywhere, baby,” he remembers telling her over the phone. That was the confidence boost that Jamil needed. “They told me they were bringing me into their family,” she says. “That was what stopped me... All I ever wanted was to make sure that this show got made. At the end of the day, we all have each other’s backs.”

At the same time, Jamil also sympathizes with the ballroom fans who expressed their concerns. “I completely understand the reservation around an outsider [being a judge]. And I can say this as a marginalized person myself: I maybe wouldn’t have gotten into a show like The Good Place if The Good Place didn’t already have two straight white actors at the helm. All I want to say is that it was my honor and privilege to be a part of this show and I’m so glad that... everyone knows the star always was and always will be not only ballroom, but also Deshaun Motherforkin’ Wesley.”

'Legendary' emcee Dashaun Wesley (Photo: Barbara Nitke/HBO Max)
Legendary emcee Dashaun Wesley. (Photo: Barbara Nitke/HBO Max)

For his part, Wesley believes that the show’s premiere should banish any pre-release controversy to the backburner. “The ballroom scene is used to controversy,” he says. “Whatever’s going on out there, that’s just what’s happening out there. We have a bigger job here to do, and that’s to educate people about our roles and our places.” And Jamil credits him with making Legendary a streaming legend in the making. “I cannot imagine anyone having led us through this show with more grace, with better cheekbones, with more sex appeal and with better style,” she raves. “I’m a f****** Dashaun Wesley stan. If you start a cult, I will join!”

What can we say except, “Holy shirtballs!”

Legendary is currently streaming on HBO Max.

— Video produced by Gisselle Bances

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