BAFTA Producer Defends Ariana DeBose Performance After Backlash

ariana debose, baftas 2023
BAFTA producer defends Ariana DeBose's performanceKate Green/BAFTA - Getty Images

Ariana DeBose's BAFTA Awards opening musical performance has been defended by the ceremony's producer after some viewers took issue with it on social media.

DeBose, who is known for her musical theatre prowess and won the Best Supporting Actress BAFTA award last year for her performance as Anita in West Side Story, opened the 2023 BAFTAs with an all-singing, all-dancing arrangement, performing songs such as 'We Are Family'.

During her performance, she added in a rap verse to praise nominees such as Angela Bassett, Viola Davis and Cate Blanchett.

ariana debose, baftas 2023
Stuart Wilson/BAFTA - Getty Images

Despite the success with a similar-style opening megamix at the 2022 Tony Awards, BAFTA producer Nick Bullen has had to come to DeBose's defence after the backlash the performance received online, which has caused DeBose to deactivate her Twitter account.

Speaking to Variety, Bullen said: "I think it's incredibly unfair, to be frank. I absolutely loved it. Everybody I've spoken to who was in the room absolutely loved it. She's a huge star, she was amazing.

"The songs she was singing are very familiar songs, the room was clapping, and people were sort of dancing to the music. 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.

ariana debose
Joe Maher/BAFTA - Getty Images

He added: "And here is a woman of colour 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.

"All of those mentions, I felt, from the moment we were rehearsing it right through to the transmission last night, spoke to what we wanted to do."

Bullen's company Spun Gold won a two-year contract to produce the BAFTAs in August last year, and the producer said he wanted to bring more of an American award style to the show.

"Our brief from BAFTA and the BBC was they wanted the show to feel as though it had more energy, had more warmth, had a broader reach in terms of age range and diversity," he said.

Bullen added: "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.

"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. Let's just evolve, let's just move forward with some gentle changes that start to lay out the stall of what this show should be and where we should be with it."

The 76th British Academy Film Awards was hosted by Richard E Grant and This Morning's Alison Hammond.

The biggest winner of the evening was All Quiet on the Western Front, which collected seven wins out of its 14 nominations, with The Banshees of Inisherin and Elvis both taking home four award wins.

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