In the wake of Ariana DeBose’s viral BAFTA Awards leading ladies rap, a producer for the show has stepped forward to decry all criticisms lobbed at the Oscar-winning actress. In an interview with Variety, Nick Bullen said that everyone he had spoken to at the event actually “loved” her performance.
DeBose’s performance took place at the BAFTAs on Sunday evening in London. While opening the show, the musical actress began listing off the women acting nominees: “Angela Bassett did the thing / Viola Davis, my woman king / Blanchett Cate, you’re a genius / Jamie Lee, you are all of us!”
The goofy rap immediately inspired memes of DeBose shimmying around the awards show, especially honing in on her reading of, “Angela Bassett did the thing.” While some playfully teased DeBose—she even commented “Honestly I love this” on one fan’s collection of tweets—others slammed her for being “evil” and claimed the routine “flopped.”
The bullying may have pushed DeBose off Twitter. As of Sunday night, the actress deactivated her account. (She has, however, been off and on the social media platform before this year’s BAFTAs.)
“I think it’s incredibly unfair, to be frank. I absolutely loved it,” Bullen told Variety of the hate. “That rap section in the middle, mentioning the women in the room, was because it’s been a great year for women in film, and we wanted to celebrate that. And here is a woman of color who is at the absolute top of her game. And she’s opening the BAFTAs with a song that said so much on so many levels.”
Bullen went on to say that DeBose crafted the entire segment—which also included melodies from “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” by Eurythmics and “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge—with her team. She also worked with a choreographer and a musical director to pull it all off.
“We wanted to open the show with some energy, some fun, and also lay out straight away that this was hopefully going to feel like a different night, but with a familiarity as well, and what Ariana did was exactly that,” says Bullen.
Some have jumped in with a defense for DeBose, others say she should lean into the joke—which, per the aforementioned comment, seems to be what she’s doing on Instagram—while a handful of trolls are still upset with the actress. Bullen pins that to a largely traditionalist mindset when it comes to the BAFTAs.
“I think a lot of people don’t like change, and there’s a view that the BAFTAs have to be this slightly stiff, traditional British, middle-England messaging,” he said. “But American awards shows have much more razzmatazz, much more showbiz, and perhaps a broader range of people being involved. We felt we’re not about revolution, we’re about evolution.”
Still, for the most part, social media users have rallied around DeBose for her “camp masterpiece.” So, will we get the follow-up at this year’s Oscar ceremony? Here’s hoping. Ariana DeBose, do your thing.