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Matt Rogers on Fire Island, Pride and Prejudice

Matt Rogers Knows His "Fire Island" Character Is Doing the Most

Watch out! This post contains spoilers.

Matt Rogers, Zane Phillips and Tomas Matos in the film FIRE ISLAND. Photo by Jeong Park. Photo by Jeong Park. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved
Matt Rogers got to live the dream in the summer of 2021. That's when he and two of his very best friends — Joel Kim Booster and Bowen Yang — brought to life the script for "Fire Island," written by Booster and inspired by their real-life adventures. "I live under a lucky star," he tells POPSUGAR. "Seriously."

"When you're doing a movie that is about friendship and that is about chosen family, to be there with your literal sisters does a lot of the work," he explains. " I think we're good performers, but I also think we're great friends."

For "Fire Island," Booster mapped the plot of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" on a group of gay friends spending a week on Fire Island. The area is a historic gay vacation getaway on Long Island, partially because, for decades, it gave LGBTQ+ people a place to socialize outside of the eyes of straight society. But as "Fire Island," directed by Andrew Ahn, skewers, the community can also be incredibly exclusionary, elitist, racist, and sizeist. Booster and Yang's Howie and Noah try to navigate all these things on their quest for love as the movie's Elizabeth and Jane.

I wrote my AP Lit essay about the relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Lydia Bennet, and I got a five. That means I got three college credits, baby, and it's crazy because now I'm portraying that relationship with Joel in the film."I wrote my AP Lit essay about the relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Lydia Bennet, and I got a five. That means I got three college credits, baby, and it's crazy because now I'm portraying that relationship with Joel in the film."

And that makes Rogers's Luke the Lydia. Rogers didn't need a refresher on Austen's plot, because he studied it in high school and even wrote his AP Lit essay about it. He says, "The essay was, 'Choose a novel that you've read this year, and take two characters from it and explain how one character is a foil for another character. How the character's existence in the piece heightens a theme for the main character.' I wrote my AP Lit essay about the relationship between Elizabeth Bennet and Lydia Bennet, and I got a five. That means I got three college credits, baby, and it's crazy because now I'm portraying that relationship with Joel in the film."

Rogers is "proud" of how Booster interpreted Lydia's story and that he got to portray it. In "Pride and Prejudice," Lydia is disgraced when she runs away with Mr. Wickham, thinking he will marry her. But he soon proves to be a scoundrel, only intent on ruining her reputation. Mr. Darcy steps in with enough money to force Wickham to marry Lydia. When readers see Lydia for a final time, she seems thrilled to be the new Mrs. Wickham, though her sisters and father are outraged.

"I think Lydia, in this incarnation as Luke, gets that dignity that Lydia did not get in the book, and some closure, or at least the beginning of some closure that Lydia does not get in the book," Rogers said. "He's not doomed."

But for Rogers, one of the most interesting parts was diving into the deep insecurity he found at the center of Luke, who would do anything to get attention from Dex (Zane Phillips), the Wickham of "Fire Island." "In really seeping myself into the character in this world, I really asked myself the question, would Luke hook up with Dex again? And I think he definitely would," he says. Just as Lydia still tries to make things work with Wickham, Luke gives that same power over to Dex.

"I don't even think Luke thinks of himself as an unattractive person. I think that Luke just is insecure and is not able to see himself for his value," he says. " I had to ask myself that hard question at the end of what's his future after this movie, and I wonder if he's going to process what's happened to him."

"I don't think Luke realizes how f*cked this was," he explains. "I think it's going to take him a while to realize he was assaulted."

While Rogers feels blessed to have made a movie with his best friends, the closeness of their relationship sometimes made working together difficult. "I'll just be totally honest and transparent that sisters fight. Not every moment on set was completely above board," he said. "It's a tough movie to do. It's very meta."

Rogers said in the process of filming he also became very close to the rest of the cast, especially Phillips, Tomás Matos, and James Scully. "So, when you're living on top of each other in Fire Island for two weeks, actually shooting the movie, which was the last two weeks, so we all knew each other really well, of course there's going to be dynamics," he explains. "When there's real love, the stakes get higher. Also, we all are so passionate about this movie that sometimes we leaned into that stuff." He says when he watches the movie, it feels like an "emotional scrapbook" from the summer "that just so happens to be a movie everyone can watch."

Bowen Yang, Tomas Matos, Matt Rogers, Torian Miller, Joel Kim Booster and Margaret Cho in the film FIRE ISLAND. Photo by Jeong Park. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

Booster wrote the role of Luke for Rogers, and the actor says he sees the similarities. "I think we both have a tendency to kind of do the most, to say the least. I think we both like attention, which is good and bad sometimes," he says. "I definitely understand, which I think a lot of queer people do, and I'm really happy it's a theme in the film, when you give so much power over to someone that you think you're lucky that they looked at you."

But Rogers thinks Luke is more confident than he is — especially when it comes to fashion. In an early scene, Luke wears an extremely revealing, over-the-top singlet. "I felt iconic wearing it. I loved wearing it. I would never personally wear that to tea," he says. "It's such an overdressed moment." Luke's extreme dressing was part of their exploration of his character. "Luke is the kind of person who is very intentional with what he wears, and he always almost gets it. He always almost nails it," Rogers says.

Rogers loves making art for queer audiences — he wrote and starred on Netflix's "Q Force," and he currently stars in Showtime's "I Love That For You" — but he says it can be a "tough crowd." He gets why people were nervous about "Fire Island" before it came out.

"Queer audiences are underrepresented, period," he explains. "That makes them very anxious about media that comes out and says we're going to represent you. In fact, we're going to be called 'Fire Island.' I think that there is definitely a sense of wanting to get it right that I don't think straight creators feel."

"You know, when they made 'Dr. Death' of Peacock, Alec Baldwin isn't saying, 'Well, we don't want to f*ck this up for white men,'" he jokes. "It's just a burden they don't have."

But he's very optimistic about the influx of art representing queer people. "It's exciting to be in this generation of things that are happening, and I'm super excited that it feels like every year, if we get one, then the next year we get three, next year we get five," he explains. "Not everyone might love 'Q Force,' but because that walked, something else can run. If 'Love, Simon' wasn't your thing a couple years ago, maybe you liked 'Happiest Season' a little bit more. Maybe you'll love 'Fire Island' a ton. Maybe next year, there'll be something that really breaks through in a mainstream way. Maybe it's released to theaters, becomes a box office success, and wins Oscars."

"Maybe it can still be fun and about a fun queer experience and not mining our trauma. Maybe there'll be all queer actors in the movie," he says. "To be a part of it is so exciting, and I hope that people think I'm contributing to it positively and want me to continue being a part of it because I enjoy it, and I love what I do, and I love doing it with these people."

"Fire Island" is streaming now on Hulu.

Image Source: Fox Searchlight
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