One of the funniest and most imaginative sequences in the new Hulu comedy “Quiz Lady” involves drugs, dogs and… talking clouds?!
In the film, anxiety-riddled Anne (Awkwafina) and her sister Jenny (Sanda Oh) devise a scheme to pay off their mother’s gambling debts and rescue their dog, who has been held for ransom by debt collectors.
Jenny suggests Anne audition for “Can’t Stop the Quiz,” a trivia game show that Anne has watched religiously her entire life. But when they get to the auditions, Anne’s anxiety kicks into overdrive and she sweats uncontrollably. Jenny offers her a relaxant to power through the question round. As the drugs kick in, Anne is transported to a Teletubby-esque meadow as “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles plays.
It then cuts to the real world, where viewers see Jenny horrified at what she’s done.
“Anne is such an anxious person,” writer Jen D’Angelo explained in an interview with TheWrap. “I think of her as this person who, at any moment, her mind is racing, her body is completely clenched, like she’s just in fight or flight mode all the time. And so the idea of her taking a relaxing drug, and then for the first time in her life just feeling like completely relaxed and just sort of like completely melting into herself, was sort of the inspiration for the visuals. We wanted to make it just really welcoming and lovely.”
“When she gets high, it’s her vision of heaven,” added director Jessica Yu. “It’s her happy place, and we filled it with these things that she loves like baby pugs and happy clouds. And when Jen D’Angelo wrote the scene, I just love the idea of that being her happy place. I wanted to add this idea of having the split-screen. So you see the reality of Jenny, the older sister, sitting at the conference room at the hotel. And then you’ve got Anne, who is in her happy bubble, and they’re in the same frame.”
Yu admitted that the scene — one of the few in the comedy that heavily featured visual effects — was challenging but incredibly rewarding.
“[It was challenging] just trying to think of what are the different elements that we would need to connect everything together,” Yu recalled. “For her drifting down the aisle, there was a rig we had to put together for that, what flowers were real and wrangling all the pug puppies. It had a lot of pieces to it, and I was just trying to check off everything and make sure that that we had it.”
Both D’Angelo and Yu agreed that Awkwafina’s drug-induced smile was the best payoff from the scene.
“She’s such an incredible physical comedian and watching all of her micro-movements and just her facial expression when she gets that smile, it’s just so incredible. I feel like she carries that whole set piece so well,” D’Angelo said.
Yu agreed. “Awkwafina, you know, she’s going to kill a scene like this. And what I loved is that’s when the first giant Awkwafina smile happens in the film. And when it lands, it’s just irresistible.”
“Quiz Lady” is now streaming on Hulu.
Interviews were lightly edited for clarity and length.
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