Bowen Yang Talks Friendship with 'Down to Earth' Ariana Grande: 'Such a Capacity for Empathy' (Exclusive)

“She is — and I mean this so, so, so complimentarily — very emotional,” the comedian told PEOPLE at the 2024 Las Culturistas Culture Awards

<p>Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty; Taylor Hill/WireImage</p> Ariana Grande and Bowen Yang

Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty; Taylor Hill/WireImage

Ariana Grande and Bowen Yang

There’s nothing wicked about Bowen Yang and Ariana Grande’s friendship.

Ahead of his co-hosting duties at the third annual Las Culturistas Culture Awards on Saturday, June 15, the actor and comedian, 33, spoke to PEOPLE about the “down to earth” pop star — and raved about her performance in their upcoming film adaptation of Wicked.

Reflecting on how he and Grande, 30, click at Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre, Yang said, “I just find her to be so personal and down to earth in a way that is disarming, in a way that makes you think, ‘Oh, I totally forgot about the fact that you are who you are.’ ”

Related: Bowen Yang Raves About Wicked Costar Ariana Grande: 'I Love Her' (Exclusive)

“She is someone who will get on your level and just someone who has such a capacity for empathy,” he added.

Yang also said he admires the “We Can't Be Friends” singer’s ability to show emotion — a quality his podcast and Culture Awards co-host Matt Rogers shares, he noted.

<p>John Nacion/Getty</p> 'Las Culturistas' co-hosts Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang at their third annual 'Las Culturistas' Culture Awards

John Nacion/Getty

'Las Culturistas' co-hosts Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang at their third annual 'Las Culturistas' Culture Awards

“She is — and I mean this so, so, so complimentarily — very emotional,” he said of Grande. “She's a crier, and that's the thing that I'm most jealous of. Any time someone is a good crier like this one [Rogers] I'm like, ‘I kind of wish I had that.’ ”

Also at the Culture Awards, Yang revealed that the thing he is most looking forward to about Wicked is, well, Grande.

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“I'm excited for people to see Ari really act down,” the Saturday Night Live star told PEOPLE. “Everybody is such a good actor in this, but Ari especially is giving Glinda such a perfect dimension.”

Related: Bowen Yang Voices Support for Ariana Grande amid Speculation Surrounding 'Eternal Sunshine': 'The Narrative Is Wrong'

He’s also thrilled for fans to see how his character Pfannee has taken shape in the new adaptation.

“I think Jon M. Chu was really giving such latitude for everybody,” Yang said. “Like, he gave me a character that was otherwise completely, maybe, ornamental, but he really let us play and overcome — or transcend — the trope of the gay sassy sidekick.”

“That stereotype really kind of gets broken in a way that I think is really smart,” he added. “And that's all in the direction of how collaborative Wicked can be, which is crazy.”

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<p>Universal Pictures</p> Ariana Grande as Glinda in the 'Wicked' trailer

Universal Pictures

Ariana Grande as Glinda in the 'Wicked' trailer

Although Grande was not among the 2024 Culture Awards’ star-studded nominees, she did make a virtual cameo at last year’s ceremony to accept the Alison Williams cool girl award.

This year's show, which was produced by Disco Nap's Lauren Mandel, did of course enlisted a slew of celebrities from every corner of culture to celebrate the past year's biggest, silliest and most dramatic moments.

Along with hosts Yang and Rogers, Julia Fox and Meredith Marks hit the red carpet and appeared during the ceremony to accept awards. Plus, even more celebs appeared virtually, from Sandra Oh and Sabrina Carpenter to daddy award winner Pedro Pascal.

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