On Sundance Channel’s “Be Good Johnny Weir,” the dynamic figure skater lays bare all that it took to get him on the ice in Vancouver, his second and last Olympic games.
We talked to Johnny Weir about what really went down behind the scenes on some of the most dramatic moments in the season so far.
Your best friend, Paris, moved out on you pretty abruptly. Can you tell us more about why he moved out?
I knew for the Olympic year I kind of wanted to live alone and we talked about it and everything. He understood, but he didn’t really notify me that he was going to move out when he did. So, it came as a shock to me, because I was leaving for Korea the day after he told me. So, I had to organize myself, because while I was in Korea for two-and-a-half weeks, however long I was there, he was going to move out and the apartment would be done. So, all my stuff would just be sitting there in this apartment they were going to be renting to someone else. So, I had to get my stuff together in one day and it was hard. I mean I was only miffed for a week. For the people you love and your best friends, you brush it aside. The show makes it look a lot more dramatic than they really were. My mom was outraged.
We also watched as you left Priscilla, the coach you’ve had since you were 12-years-old, and switched to Galina. What was that like?
Changing my coach was a huge roadblock for me and it was something that was so difficult. She really was like a mother to me and it was so difficult to say I’m not getting out of you what I need to become a champion. I mean we had success together, but at that time in my life I wasn’t getting what I needed to feel motivated and inspired on a daily basis. So, I went to Galina, because I felt that she could inspire me every day. If not just through her sheer talent as a coach, then by her iron fist and it worked out great for me. That’s why I chose her. I chose her, because she could kick my a**.
Are you still close to Priscilla?
Priscilla and I are not that close anymore. I mean we were at the point where we can finish each other’s sentences. It was like a real relationship with someone in your family. We had a great relationship, but after I left, of course, she was hurt. I was hurting. We just never recovered from that.
You also switched choreographers from Galina’s daughter, Nina, to a new one. How hard was that?
I think choreography is something that’s very fickle, but it’s something that’s very special and beautiful and you need someone who can inspire you and changing a choreographer isn’t a big deal for me. It’s interesting to see who brings what to the table and, of course, I bring some of my own ideas.
Last episode you competed in The Russian Cup and it seemed that you had really trained hard for it, yet you didn’t even place. What was going through your mind when you were in the middle of your program and it wasn’t going your way?
It’s a real disaster when you go on the ice and you’re not feeling it. “It,” I can’t really describe. It’s a feeling that’s in you when you know you’re going to do it. You know you’re going to be amazing. At the Olympics, I felt that. I felt that within myself it’s going to be good. I felt so confident. In Russia, it was my first competition in quite a while, and I wasn’t really nervous. I felt a lot of pressure to prove myself and to do well, especially after year before. My federation left me off the world team and I was really sick and coming back from a lot of things. And Russia, for me, is like competing in my home country. I go there and people support me and know me like in America. There was all that pressure I had on me. I just wasn’t mentally prepared. Physically, I was prepared, but mentally I wasn’t. That’s what happened.
Do you feel that the show has created any misconceptions of you or shown you in a bad light at all?
Well, I mean I don’t see anything in a bad light and everything in the show is real. It’s just sometimes things can be edited in a certain way to make them step up a notch and be a little bit more over the top. That’s fine. I mean it’s television, reality show or not. I have no issues. I know my coach, Galina, comes off as the villain a lot in my show. Really, our relationship is very professional, a lot of hard work. It takes being strong to push me a lot of days, because I go weak when some things are not going my way. With Paris, the situation was very dramatic on the show. In real life, I mean yeah, there were a few weeks where I didn’t really speak to him, because I was so upset and there was so much going on. It all worked itself out though. The show does show what really happens. You have 30 minutes to show a giant story you can only show in two minutes, so you have to get the most bang for your buck.
Now that you’ve had a taste of reality, would you do a second season?
I would really love to do a second season of my show, because this period in my life is kind of a transition. I want people to go on that journey with me. I think it’s great for a young person to be transitioning, because we’re all transitioning from childhood to adulthood, from high school to college to real world. I mean there are all these things and I’m doing it kind of in a weird way: From figure skating to something and I want people to be able to see that.
It’s clear from the show that Weir feels quite a connection to Russia. Check out the bonus video from our interview below as he explains that fascination:
“Be Good Johnny Weir” airs Mondays at 10:30 PM on Sundance Channel.
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