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The comedy film franchise expands to the small screen with 'Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin'
In expanding the aca-verse of Pitch Perfect, showrunner Megan Amram looked to… Star Wars? “As a fan of Star Wars, in general, I’ve been really loving Andor,” says The Good Place writer who has now been charged with bringing the Pitch Perfect franchise to TV for the first time. “What I think they are doing great [with Andor] is finding ways to enrich the story that you already know. That was very much on the forefront of my mind making this show: How do we honour the Pitch Perfect movies, and keep the formula there of music, joy, friendship and found family while also getting to know more about Bumper [Adam DeVine]?” W NetworkIn the series, Amram takes Bumper Allen, the ever-so-slightly villainous acapella singer from the film franchise, to an entirely new orbit. In Berlin, a struggling Bumper reconnects with former Das Sound Machine singer Pieter (Flula Borg), who is no longer out to destroy his rival but help him become a success in Germany (think David Hasselhoff) after Bumper’s TikTok video goes viral.
Yet making Bumper the protagonist of this feel-good franchise was not without challenges. “The game as a writer is how do I take this character who is a villain in the first and second movies—who is incredibly funny, but you see him mistreat a lot of people in his life—how do you believably change his character, soften him up and get him to a place where you can root for him?” Amram ponders. W NetworkWhy, you put him together with another bad boy who’s fallen on hard times! “Flula is so wonderful at being the straight man, but also he has this groundedness in this show that I think shows his range as a performer,” Amram explains. “With what happened with DSM [breaking up], we tried to humble him to a point that you could see the humanity behind his bravado.”
W NetworkIn returning to Pieter seven years after Pitch Perfect 2 premiered, German comedian Borg draws a parallel between his character and a key player in another popular cinematic universe. “Have you seen the film Captain America? He’s flying that boat and the boat freezes for 90 years and then he wakes up, but he still is ripped… I don’t know how he’s still ripped… but now he can run around without shoes and then he meets Iron Man?” Borg teases. “That’s nothing like what I experienced in this show. It was just a wonderful experience to expand myself and learn how to not just be a bad boy. Everyone can be a bad boy. Sometimes you need to be a cute boy!” W NetworkThis time, the musical act to defeat is scheming pop artist Gisela (Jameela Jamil), who is determined to beat Bumper out for a coveted slot at German Unity Day. For her part, the former Good Place star feels like Pitch Perfect offers a much-needed reprieve from the darkness of the real world. “It’s just perfect escapism, isn’t it? There’s so much that is serious and depressing in the world, and I think Pitch Perfect was always an alternative universe you could just lose yourself in,” she says. “Megan Amram is a master at creating something so ridiculous that even when you aren’t watching fantasy, it still feels that way because she takes you into this fun, childlike utopia.” Per Amram, in creating that utopia, music is among her most valuable storytelling tools. “I am a huge musical theatre fan and the thing that I always appreciated, if you can get past the suspension of disbelief that people are singing, is that it gives you this direct insight into character’s brains. On our show, it’s not people bursting out into song on the street, but there are fantasy sequences and dream sequences; Bumper has a really fun song where he’s just boppin’ down the street because he’s in love with Heidi—those were really exciting ways to show the characters’ interior lives.” W NetworkAs the franchise was always female-helmed, both in terms of exec producer Elizabeth Banks and the lead characters, Amram was conscious about filling her cast with intriguing, three-dimensional women, including not just Gisela, but Sarah Hyland as Pieter’s assistant and Bumper’s songwriter Heidi, and Lera Abova as Pieter’s sister, Berlin DJ Thea. “It was really on the forefront of my mind to make sure that even though Bumper’s name is in the title, the ensemble felt really strong and that the female characters had moments of female friendship. Even though Bumper and Pieter are the characters we took from the movies, the core of female friendship is still there,” Amram assures. “But I also love Bumper and Pieter’s friendship together. I’ve always been drawn to really fun, sweet depictions of men being friends with each other, which I think is a different type of warmth that the Pitch Perfect universe is still all about, even if they’re not women.”
Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin premieres Tuesday, December 6 on W Network