- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A ca believe it: the Barden Bellas are back for more musical high jinks in “Pitch Perfect 2,” which opens Friday.

Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and the rest of the college a cappella singers return for the sequel to the 2012 hit, with more snappy vocals-only takes on contemporary radio hits — but fewer forced “a ca” punch lines.

Sitting down with returning actresses Hana Mae Lee (Lilly) and Ester Dean (Cynthia Rose), plus German actor/musician Flula Borg, who portrays new villain Pieter Kramer, is more like being a fly on the wall as friends chat than interviewing the stars of a major Hollywood film.

“We are all friends and buddies, but we were trying to impress you guys,” Mr. Borg said across the table to Miss Lee and Miss Dean, referring to his “evil” group’s musical numbers in the film.

“Oh really?” Miss Lee responded. “The first time we saw you guys, we were like, ‘Oh great, this is [not] gonna be easy.’”

“We were pretty ready when you saw us the first time,” Mr. Borg said.

“Yeah, they were like robots,” Miss Lee said. “Perfect.”

Miss Lee, who is of Korean descent, performs stand-up comedy, which informed her take on the quiet but hilarious Lily.

“My culture is super strict My mom is pretty funny, but I think it’s because she’s a bully,” Miss Lee said with a laugh. “I think I get my skills from her.”

“Villains, man, I love playing villains,” Mr. Borg said of his character, the No. 2 in the rival a cappella group led by the Kommissar, portrayed by Danish actress Birgitte Hjort Sorensen. “I think everyone loves playing bad guys. You can be really mean. A real actor has to kind of be nice.

“I want to be a bad guy in action movies, like ‘Die Hard.’ I want to be Hans Gruber.”

Miss Dean told Mr. Borg that his character “seems like he could be like the bad guy on a good team.”

“I think sometimes [the European attitude] may seem abrasive, a little bit,” Mr. Borg said. “It’s a cultural difference.”

Actress Elizabeth Banks, who produced the first “Pitch” and played a small role in it, comes to sequel as producer, actor and director — her first full-length feature at the helm.

“[It] didn’t seem like her first time at all,” Miss Lee said. “She was just so easy about everything and really involved us in everything.”

“When I look at the movie, a lot of things I [see] weren’t scripted,” said Miss Dean. “[Miss Banks] allowed everybody to find their voice. ‘What does [this character] say? What does she feel?’ It was great to have some fun.”

A multi-talented performer, Miss Banks is known for her comedic chops, which she has displayed on TV shows like “Scrubs” and “30 Rock” and in movies such as “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Walk of Shame.” Miss Lee said that acting in comedies made Miss Banks the best choice to take on the directing duties of “Pitch Perfect 2.”

“She’ll [be] a sought-after director” after this movie, Miss Dean said.

It’s rare for a film to feature so many actresses, let alone a female director. Miss Dean and Miss Lee said that the two “Pitch” films not only offer a positive message of female empowerment but also could foster a global sisterhood of Bellas.

“I like girl power, so this is my story,” said Miss Dean, who is a real-life musician. She hopes that fans of the film the world over might get together and proclaim, “‘I’m a Bella. I have a Bella jacket. I was a Bella.’ I think it’s a real thing.”

“I think a lot of girls — even the young girls — feel like it’s a sorority,” Miss Lee said. “One girl in Arkansas will love it, and another girl in the Philippines will love it.”

“Ooh, we should make like a Bella sister campaign,” Miss Dean said to Miss Lee, “for all the little Bellas to come.”

“A Bella convention. That would be cool,” said Miss Lee.

While the prospect of continuing a successful brand like “Pitch Perfect” brought them back together, Miss Dean maintains that it was especially sweet to reunite with her castmates and friends.

“We wanted to get back to it so [we] could all hang out again,” she said. “It’s like the Blues Brothers doing another one.”

But as with all reunions, the specter of separation looms. A poignant scene in “Pitch Perfect 2” shows the Bellas, reunited with former leader Aubrey (Anna Camp), sharing a tender song by campfire while knowing that they soon will go their separate ways into adulthood.

“Especially with college, you’re there every day,” but then people scatter upon graduation, Miss Lee said. “It’s like a huge step.”

Appropriately enough, the song reprised around the campfire was the first film’s signature song, “Cups,” with its mournful reprise, “You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.”

“Bringing that song back, that was [emotional],” Miss Lee said.

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