Pitch Perfect 3′s Ester Dean & Hana Mae Lee on Girl Squads & Shower Songs
Pitch Perfect 3 is more than just the third installment of a chick flick trilogy. The made-for-music-junkies saga that follows acapella MVPs, The Bellas, to Europe for a special reunion post-college graduation hits all the right notes when it comes to nostalgia and diverse women empowerment.
Before PP3 hits theaters on Christmas Day (December 25), Ester Dean (who plays the unfiltered Cynthia Rose) and Hana Mae Lee (the strong-but-mostly-silent type, Lilly Okanakurama) break down their characters’ evolutions, the musical selection for part three and why lady squads are killing at the box office.
How have your characters evolved for Pitch Perfect 3?
Ester Dean: Cynthia Rose has evolved just basically, not coming out but just becoming who she is and being secure with that, and you can see it by the clothes that she wears, and the way that she’s OK with saying things out loud just because she’s being herself now. She’s not hiding from people’s views and I think that’s part of Cynthia Rose’s character coming to be who she is and I think all the girls are becoming themselves instead of what day-to-day America says you should be.
Hana Mae Lee: With these Pitch Perfect films, we started off as freshmen in college and then graduating and now it’s life after college, and I think those are pivotal points in people’s lives. Then I think they really show that in that franchise and with [my character] Lilly, I feel nothing less than that with her because she’s always evolving, getting into quirkier situations, and just loving being weird. In the third one, you get a nice surprise with her and I don’t want to give away too much ‘cause I feel like it’s pretty exciting and she may meet someone in the movie, we’ll see. She’s definitely evolving, I feel like there can be…you know how there’s eight Machete movies with Danny Trejo? I feel like that with Lilly. And then every situation defines a whole different Lilly. It’s pretty fun to play that character.
How has your connection to your characters grown?
Dean: Well, my connection to not only the characters, but the movies started from the very first one. Cynthia Rose wasn’t so far away from who I am as Ester, just being natural and [seeing] both sides of the spectrum, female and male. And I’m very balanced with that situation so to be able to come on to a movie to show how that balance looks like being feminine and masculine and being very comfortable in it really attached me to who I am. This movie is very freeing for identity. It really showed me how to identify with myself and be able to be comfortable in it, so I’m very attached to not only the character but the movie itself.
Lee: I love Lilly, because, personally, I talk a lot. Like you ask me one question and it takes five pages of me telling you like yes or no. It kind of inspired me like, ‘Wow, she really says everything she needs to in five words or like she wears all her clothes and doesn’t care what people think even if it’s pattern on top of pattern.’ And she’s really walking to her own beat, living in her own world though very much connected to people in the world. And I think that’s pretty inspiring and a strong character trait in women that I feel is encouraging ‘cause she doesn’t really look to other people for encouragement or approval. She’s her own source of validation.
The Bellas head over to Europe for a special reunion this go-round. What can you say about the musical selection and how it compares to past films?
Dean: I love the music in this movie. When we got there, it’s so funny ‘cause within the first one, it was like, you want us to do what kind of dances? And then second, we’re here, we got this. And the third one, we’re like, yo, you guys stepped it up! We thought we were ready. We’re real dancers now. The music and the dances are just oh my god and the music sets it up. I wanted to sing all the songs we sung so it was a beautiful mesh of life, acapella, music, dance and funny jokes.
Lee: [Vocal arrangers and producers] Ed Boyer and Deke Sharon are super talented at mashing up the songs, super catchy as well. I know sometimes we might not get first pick for the songs we want, but the ones we do get are pretty great.
When you look at other recent films like Girls Trip, there’s an audience for squads of badass women and more diversity on-camera. What do you think makes the Bellas unique in the current landscape of film?
Dean: Well, with Girls Trip and Bridesmaids, all those movies are very, very funny movies about women yet when it comes to Pitch Perfect, it’s a very very funny movie about diversity, diverse women. Everybody’s different. It just feels funny and full of identities that everyone can relate to. Not just a funny character, but a face, a size, a lifestyle you can relate to. It brought truth to the comedy.
Lee: Also, the connection and the friendship, like Girls Trip, that all the girls have in Pitch Perfect and the bond that they have, the encouragement they have, is something that’s wonderful and it’s great that we see it in all these movies and people relate to it, too. It really brings back memories of for me at least, of my own upbringing, childhood and friendships I’ve had along the way and this third one just really connects that together. It’s really nice.
What are your go-to songs to sing in the shower?
Dean: I wake up with Oprah every day. I listen to something with Oprah trying to tell me what to do with my life. I wake up to Oprah and audiobooks but right now, I’m listening to Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody.’
Lee: My music is just the water running in the shower. [Laughs] My music’s been pretty much outside noise. I’ve been tuning out to all the radio stuff. This sounds like the weirdest answer, but listening to what’s around me. I feel like that’s already enough music and people just talking and honking. I don’t have a favorite song that’s playing right now.
What did you both learn from working with director Trish Sie on PP3?
Dean: Woman! She’s a woman who has her whole life, who decided to have her chickens, dogs, her husband and her kids, and feel like I am woman. Hear me roar! She inspired me to go have some chickens and ducks. She’s very amazing, as a director as well.
Lee: She’s great. She really let us do our own thing and encouraged us like, ‘You guys know these characters front to back.’ We’ve been playing these characters for six years now. Very encouraging, very sweet, very inspiring, very funny. Always have the greatest jokes and just very bluntly honest, which is very comical in a way, too.
Photo Credit: Monica Schipper/ Getty Images
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