With Grande playing Juliet and Patrick Schwarzenegger in the role of Romeo, the video gets an extra bit of edge from song collaborator Big Sean, who plays the Priest. Although you’d expect Sean to play Ariana’s love interest, since, you know, he does rap on the track, it’s the kind of casting twist that Shakespeare just might appreciate.
Director Nev Todorovic and producer Ally Pankiw of the Young Astronauts opened up to MTV News about the video, giving us the secrets from the set.
Priest Big Sean
Scheduling had almost everything to do with why the rapper took on the priestly role instead of Juliet’s star-crossed love interest. Pankiw also shared, “It was fitting for Big Sean to play the role of the narrator of the story and the priest in the Romeo and Juliet tale, especially because of the religious imagery in his lyrics,” Todorovic added, “And the moment he got in that throne, I was like ‘Yes! This is perfect.’ He got so comfortable, kicked his leg up, and I was like ‘Stay there, yes, let’s roll.’ If Kanye is Yeezus, then Big Sean sure as hell makes a great priest!”
O Romeo, Romeo
Schwarzenegger really embodies the bad-boy spirit of Romeo. He ended up getting the part after Grande’s manager, Scooter Braun, suggested they aim high when it came to casting.
Nev recalled, “As soon as we saw Patrick, we knew he’d be perfect. He’s just so classically handsome and charming. How could you not be comfortable with someone like that? He was absolutely the best Romeo not only because he played the role incredibly, but also because he really is a real-life Romeo.”
“I think everyone was super excited to work with him, including all of Ariana’s team because he’s a big fan of hers. So he really cared about doing a great job and was really excited to be involved,” Ally added. “He really pulled that mischievous and passionate quality out of his friends and Ariana on set.”
A Perfect Juliet
While the video may look like a ’90s time capsule with all that neon, the Young Astronauts explain that Ariana’s Juliet really harks back to Shakespeare’s classic play because as Ally puts it, she has “the innocence and purity of a classic Juliet.”
“I was so happy to have the opportunity to make Ariana play a princess of sorts. I can’t think of anyone right now who could better portray royalty. She just embodies it so well,” Nev said. “She’s a beautiful and honest person.”
Was There Chemistry?
And, if you’re wondering, Todorovic notes that Ariana and Patrick totally hit it off when the cameras were rolling.
“They’re both obviously great actors and did a remarkable job playing their roles. The pool scene is a good example because it was so tough. It was the end of the night, everyone was gone, and the pool was getting cold. It was just them and a bunch of crew just staring, and there were actually so many laughs,” she said. “If you see the whole cut, they are shivering so hard, but then as soon as we call action, they’re in character. That’s how you know they’re incredible at what they do.”
An Homage To Baz?
Ally notes that “Ariana has this inherent ’90s vibe,” which might explain why the video looks a bit like Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 re-telling of the play with Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio. But, they quickly realized there were a lot of references they didn’t even intend on.
“Also, the religious symbolism and the costume party are all from the original Shakespearean play,” Nev explained. “But as we were planning the shoot, and especially on set, we started seeing more of those similarities emerge. Like if you notice, we had an Astronaut in the masquerade ball and everyone is comparing it to Paul Rudd’s character, but really it was an homage to our team The Young Astronauts!”