Bafta producer says Twitter mockery of Ariana DeBose’s opening number is ‘incredibly unfair’

Baftas producer Nick Bullen has spoken out against the Twitter backlash aimed at Ariana Debose’s performance.

During Sunday (19 February) night’s film awards, the former Bafta-winner opened the event with a rendition of Eurythmics’s 1985 hit track “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves”.

Midway through the song, DeBose introduced a rap in which she name-checked all the female stars in the audience. The clip has since gone viral, with many viewers bashing the “cringey” moment on Twitter.

Following the ceremony, in an interview with Variety, Bullen addressed the critics, claiming their assessment was “incredibly unfair”.

“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,” he argued in defence of DeBose.

“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,” Bullen said.

“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.”

Emma Thompson and Ariana DeBose at the 2023 Baftas (Twitter)
Emma Thompson and Ariana DeBose at the 2023 Baftas (Twitter)

Bullen explained the choice, saying: “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.”

He chalked up people’s negativity to their discomfort with “change”.

“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,” Bullen added.

On a more positive note, Baftas nominee Paul Mescal has been labelled a “legend” after wowing fans with his fluency in Gaelic.

Find a full rundown of the 2023 Baftas here, as well as the full list of winners here.