The Hamilton Effect continues to infect Hollywood
February 20, 2023 | 4:29 p.m. ET
You can hate thanking Lin Manuel Miranda for making actors think they have to rap to get their points across. The latest victim? Hamilton alum Ariana DeBose, who opened the 2023 BAFTA Awards with an awkward musical salute to the tallest women in film.
“All the ladies in the room / Support and guide / Everyone here I suppose,” DeBose starts out of breath immediately. DeBose yells at the likes of a horrified Hong Chau and Emma Thompson before the camera cuts to the singing actress herself, who delivers the hollow lines, “Angela Bassett made that thing / Viola Davis, my woman king / Blanchett, Cate, you’re a.” Genie/ Jamie Lee, you are all of us.”
What exactly did Bassett do? How do we lay people relate to Curtis? The answers to these questions don’t matter. What matters is that DeBose put her in front of a roomful of Hollywood hostages and bastardized a genre created by working-class brown and black Americans, only to morph into a Twitter cringe meme.
Despite his less-than-stellar landing, BAFTAs producer Nick Bullen defended DeBose’s rap in a statement to Variety, explaining that the awards show hoped a musical number would sever this year’s BAFTAs from their stuffy reputation.
“We wanted to open the show with some energy and fun and also make it clear right away that hopefully this would feel like a different night, but also with a familiarity, and what Ariana did was exactly that,” Bullen said. “I think a lot of people don’t like change and there’s a perception that the BAFTAs need to be that somewhat stuffy, traditional British, Middle English message. But American awards shows have a lot more razzmatazz, a lot more showbiz, and maybe a wider range of people involved. We felt that we weren’t about revolution, we were about evolution.”
Watch DeBose’s rap below, and learn more (better) things about the rising star – how she got to Spielberg’s West Side Story from So You Think You Can Dance – here.
Sisters do it for themselves! The Incredible @ArianaDeBose opens the 2023 #EEBAFTAs with an iconic performance! ? pic.twitter.com/G9YgKN2e1t
— BAFTA (@BAFTA) February 19, 2023
The reaction shots in Ariana Debose’s BAFTA performance send me pic.twitter.com/ru4m7BRWL7
— Nicol (@nikowl) February 20, 2023