Backed by BAFTA Rap Producer Ariana DeBose
“We felt that we are not talking about revolution, but about evolution. Let’s just evolve.”
Just a day after stealing the show at the 2023 BAFTAs, Ariana DeBose has already earned her defenders. Nick Bullen, the ceremony’s producer, has slammed those who mocked the Oscar-winning opening rap performance of “West Side Story,” calling the criticism “incredibly unfair.”
During Sunday night’s ceremony, DeBose performed a medley of “Sisters Are Doin’ It Formselves” and “We Are Family” on stage with a group of backup dancers. In the middle of his performance, DeBose launched into a rap calling out the various nominees and the women in attendance at the ceremony: “Angela Bassett did it, Viola Davis is my ‘Queen of Women’, Blanchett Cate, you’re a genius, Jamie Lee you all are. Her rap, especially her “Angela Bassett did it” moment, went viral instantly, with clips of hers flooding Twitter.
this is not real at all pic.twitter.com/wNf2yIer8z
— King of Persia Rome (@theronfilm) February 19, 2023
Bullen, who is CEO of BAFTA production company Spun Gold, spoke about the number and other moments from the ceremony in an interview. Species. Bullen talked about DeBose’s hard work putting the show together, saying he only had to work for weeks and worked closely with the music director and choreographer to put it together. He also said that those who watched DeBose’s performance at home did not represent the attitudes of those in the room, claiming that the rap section was a hit with the in-person audience.
“I absolutely loved it. Everyone I spoke to who was in the room loved it. He’s a huge star, he was amazing. The songs he was singing were very familiar songs, he had the room clapping and people were kind of dancing to the music,” Bullen told Variety. “That rap part in the middle that mentions the women in the room was because it was a great year for women in film and we wanted to celebrate that. And here is a woman of color at the absolute top of her game. And opening the BAFTAs with a song that said so much. I felt like all the mentions from the moment we were rehearsing it until last night’s show were indicative of what we wanted to do.”
Bullen further speculated that some of the backlash came from people who “don’t like change”, saying that many of the BAFTA viewers felt that the ceremony had “this somewhat stiff traditional British Middle England message”. must present, which he and the other producers consciously sought to distance themselves from. Moments like DeBose’s number, Bullen said, were in part an imitation of the American awards shows and an appeal to younger viewers on social media.
“There’s a lot more razzmatazz at the American awards shows, a lot more showbiz, and maybe a wider range of people,” Bullen said. “We felt that we are not talking about revolution, but about evolution. Let’s just evolve, just move forward with some subtle changes that will start to define what this show should be and where we should be with it. Because we want to engage all audiences. We don’t just want to go to the traditional British awards show audience.”
“The social media presence has been incredibly important to us,” he continued. “It was important for us to send messages to young people. It was important for us to send messages to different groups in Great Britain. We wanted to get the message across that this show is for everyone. And I think some people don’t like this change, but you know what? You have to get in with it, because changes are coming.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Bullen also explained the mix-up that happened when Carey Mulligan’s name was mistakenly named as the Best Supporting Actress winner, opposite Kerry Condon, the real winner. Bullen explained that Troy Kotsur, who presented the award, signed Condon’s name correctly when announcing the winner in American Sign Language.
However, there was a mistranslation between Kotsur, the British sign language interpreter on stage, and the person announcing the award via microphone. Condon’s name appeared correctly on the screens in the room, and after some initial confusion, he got up to accept the award.
“I thought Carey Mulligan was incredibly nice and handled it brilliantly. He understood it was one of those very unfortunate moments that no one could have predicted,” Bullen said. “I think that’s one of the things that people understood was that it was all done with the best of intentions, but unfortunately there was a slip-up.”
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