Joel Kim Booster was reading Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice while riding the ferry on his first trip to the queer haven that is New York's Fire Island in 2016. Among the crew was his longtime buddy in the industry and future Saturday Night Live standout Bowen Yang. A running joke of Booster's from that point on was that he was going to make the "gay Pride and Prejudice." But it wasn't until one acid-fueled night on the island as he and his friends were wrapping up a vacation that the joke actually felt doable.
"I know it sounds so stupid: 'You did acid on Fire Island and it changed your conception of self,' " Booster tells EW. "But it really did move the needle towards self acceptance in a huge way."
The concept that would eventually become the comic's first feature film that he wrote, produced, and starred in for a major studio began as a more strict adaptation of Austen's work. Chalk it up to the LSD or what have you, but "what really came into focus for me," Booster continues, "was it being about chosen family and, specifically, my friendship with Bowen and the connection that we have as queer Asian men in a space that maybe isn't made for us and overcoming that. That was really powerful for me."
The first trailer for Fire Island, which EW can exclusively reveal ahead of the film's June 3 premiere on Hulu from Disney's Searchlight Pictures and the producers at JAX Media, offers a glimpse into Booster's vision made real.
Searchlight Pictures. Torian Miller, Tomás Matos, Margaret Cho, Bowen Yang, and Joel Kim Booster in 'Fire Island.'
Booster stars as Noah, the Elizabeth Bennet-esque character who heads to Fire Island with his "makeshift little family" played by Yang, Margaret Cho, Matt Rogers, Tomás Matos, and Torian Miller. "I can't believe you talked me into this again," says Bowen's Howie, Noah's best friend. "I come here and I just feel terminally alone."
Then Howie falls (both metaphorically and literally) for a cute doctor, played by You season 2's James Scully, and the gang meets his whole house of friends, including the Mr. Darcy figure played by How to Get Away With Murder's Conrad Ricamora.
"Fire Island is oppressively white and inherently classist," Booster recalls of his own initial impressions going vacationing at the destination. That scene in the trailer when a white guy suggests Noah and Howie's friends are in the wrong place when they arrive for a party? Booster says that has personally happened to him at least three times on the island, almost beat for beat. Despite that toxicity, he came to feel something profound.
"I remember it was a real struggle to scrounge up the money to be able to afford to go those first years," he says, "but once we got there, it was like a part of myself had been unlocked. I didn't realize how much weight I was carrying around existing in largely heterosexual spaces."
Searchlight Pictures. Bowen Yang, Tomás Matos, Matt Rogers, Torian Miller, and Joel Kim Booster on the poster for 'Fire Island'
Booster had a similar experience while making Fire Island. A rarity when it comes to Hollywood productions, the film features an entirely LGBTQ main cast. Most of the crew count themselves members of the community, as well, including director Andrew Ahn (Spa Night, Driveways) and RuPaul's Drag Race star Peppermint, who makes a cameo in the film. Booster feels he has now been spoiled for all other projects moving forward.
"My first big one out of the gate and I did it with my best friends in the world, in one of my favorite places in the world," he says. "I just don't know that there will ever be an experience like this for me in the rest of my career. I can hope, but I highly doubt it."
Watch the trailer for Fire Island above.
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