'Fire Island' Director on the Film's All-LGBTQ Cast: 'We Know That the Depth of Talent Exists' (Exclusive)

Andrew Ahn talks to ET about his commitment to authentic casting, something that wasn’t lost on star Bowen Yang.

When Fire Island, a queer, modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, was first announced, it marked the first time a major film was being written and directed by as well as starring openly gay Asian people. In this case, that’s director Andrew Ahn, writer and star Joel Kim Booster and Bowen Yang. Later, the Hulu movie made news again when it revealed that it had filled out all the supporting roles with LGBTQ actors, including Margaret Cho, Matt Rogers and Conrad Ricamora. 

“Joel and I felt very committed to casting queer actors for this,” Ahn tells ET. “We know that the depth of talent exists within this community, and I think it’s really unfortunate that much of Hollywood still has this idea that you can’t do this. Like, that there are straight actors who might play these roles better. I think that it’s underestimating the value of lived experience that an actor can bring to a role.”

“This film has so much to do with queer joy and I really wanted to work with queer people,” he of the film, which is very much about chosen families and queer friendships as much as it is about finding love. “So, we were really committed to it and it was so easy to do. Like, it wasn’t a struggle to find these people.” 

He adds, “The amount of talent in this community is really tremendous.” 

20th Century Studios

For the director, who previously helmed the acclaimed Sundance film Spa Night, being on a project led by queer Asian people made him “feel at home,” he says. “So, when I came onboard, it was fun for me to figure out who else could be Asian American in here. So, to find our gay Asian American Mr. Darcy felt super cool. And Conrad Ricamora is such a star and so charismatic and such a wonderful actor. And then Margaret Cho just being a legend and an icon, it was really special. The film got even gayer and more Asian somehow.” 

And when it comes down to it, especially given that this film is set at a historical gay destination located on the fringes of New York City, “there are no straight people,” Booster says. By making this the location of this story, “I didn’t feel beholden or I didn’t feel like I had to be pedantic or educate straight people on what our world is.” 

As a result, “I could just allow these queer characters to live their authentic lives,” he says, while Ahn adds that film is ultimately “a celebration of chosen family and queer.”

20th Century Studios

That sentiment wasn’t lost on Yang, who says “when you go to Fire Island, you feel like this weight has been lifted off. You don’t have to explain yourself and explain your queerness. The way that Joel wrote it, it’s kind of seamlessly worked in.”

“I feel the same way in terms of the intersectionality of it. I felt the same way in terms of my Asian identity. These characters don’t walk around going, ‘This is what being Asian is like.’ It’s kind of hinted at or just touching the surface or towing some line,” the actor continues. “I’ve been lucky enough to be on sets where it has been predominantly Asian, and this felt like something even more special, just to have those interlocked pieces of queerness and Asian-ness.” 

Adding to that, James Scully says that all “speaks to the amazing job that Joel did making the script so current and so timely and so relevant to the experience of people going to [Fire Island]. And also, to Andrew’s ability to share with the audience.” 

Fire Island is now streaming on Hulu. 

Reporting by Denny Directo and Stacy Lambe


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