The Story Behind Bowen Yang's Britney Spears Performance in 'Fire Island' (Exclusive)

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It doesn’t get any better than watching Bowen Yang perform a cover of Britney Spears’ “Sometimes” in the Hulu film Fire Island. In true romcom fashion, the Saturday Night Live actor gets to bear all his emotions during a pivotal musical moment.

While speaking to ET, writer and star Joel Kim Booster and director Andrew Ahn break down the epic moment. “It’s my favorite scene in the movie, for sure,” Booster says.

As Howie, Yang takes the stage three quarters of the way through Booster’s queer, modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice to sing an unexpected version of the 1999 hit song while his friends, Luke (Matt Rogers) and Keegan (Tomás Matos), provide backup and add a little choreography to the scene. 

The scene comes near the end of their trip to the gay mecca as the limits of Howie and Noah’s (Booster) friendship have been tested by their unexpected and complicated romantic feelings for Charlie (James Scully) and Will (Conrad Ricamora), respectively.  

When it comes to the song selection, “it was Bowen’s choice,” Booster says, explaining that the scene itself “was always written into this script [and] that Bowen would sing karaoke in that moment.” 

He adds, “I asked Bowen for a list of songs he’d be comfortable singing and ‘Sometimes’ was sort of the top choice. And we were able to get it.”

Fire Island
20th Century Studios

“I was so glad to see that it was a song that I think most people wouldn’t think of as a piano karaoke song,” Ahn says of Yang’s choice, before revealing that there was “a lot of prep work” on everything from the karaoke arrangement to the vocals to get that scene just right for the film. 

“Adding Matt and Tomás [came] later,” Booster says, noting that the two “created that choreography without telling anybody. It was a shock and surprise to everybody when we started shooting it.”

“I knew that Matt and Tomás have great voices and that they also have theater training. And so, I had a lot of confidence in them. But I remember our first rehearsal, I was a little nervous,” Ahn says.

Luckily, there was no need for any trepidation. “Then, the very first run-through we did, it was so epic," Ahn recalls. "I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be great.’ And they started doing choreography and figured that out on their own.”

He adds, “I was just so moved by it because it’s kind of stupid and irreverent.” 

While the scene is a mix of heart and humor, Ahn says it’s a really special moment for Howie. “You know, he’s coming into his own [and] finally able to articulate something to someone that he’s interested in.” 

The director adds, “It’s a surprisingly layered moment and I was just so glad that it all came together.” 

It’s not the only time Spears is heard in the film. Later, when Charlie chases Howie down to profess his love for him, a cover version by Muna can be heard playing over the scene, bringing the moment full circle. 

And according to Booster, he got the indie pop band to contribute that song to the film’s soundtrack after reaching out on social media. “[That’s] a testament to what can happen when you shoot your shot in someone’s DMs," he shares. "Because, literally, that came about because I DM’ed Muna on Twitter."

Fire Island is now streaming on Hulu. 

Reporting by Denny Directo and Stacy Lambe


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