Ester Dean is finally back in the spotlight. After releasing her first mega-hit, "Drop It Low," in 2009, the singer has played second fiddle to a number of major artists she's written hits for, including Nicki Minaj (for whom she co-wrote "Super Bass") and Rihanna (whom she penned "S&M" for). But over the last few months, Dean's own career has been slowly picking up pace. In addition to signing with Roc Nation in January, Dean voiced characters in Rio and Ice Age: Continental Drift.
Now, she's getting in front of the camera with her first on-screen role. Along with a fresh-faced cast that includes Anna Kendrick, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, Skylar Astin, Rebel Wilson and Workaholics' Adam DeVine, Dean stars in the hilarious Jason Moore-directed/Kay Cannon-written musical comedy based on the Michael Rapkin book of the same name, Pitch Perfect, which follows an eclectic all-girl a cappella group seeking redemption after a humiliating loss in the finals the previous year. In the film, out in select theaters now and opening nationally on Friday, Dean plays to comedic perfection the group's token lesbian Cynthia Rose, a no-nonsense Barden University student with both a powerful voice and a not-so-subtle attraction to another member of the Barden Bellas (as they're known), Stacie (Alexis Knapp).
Complex got a chance to speak to the singer-turned-actress about why she's giving Hollywood a shot, the inspiration behind her character, how close she got with the cast, and the new single we can expect from her this year.
As told to Tara Aquino (@t_akino)
On transitioning from a singing career to an acting career:
My whole thought about life is growing, so when it feels like my head has reached the ceiling, I always tend to figure out what else to do. I’ve always wanted to do animation, so I was bold enough to go out and say, “Hey, I would like to do this!” When I tried to get [a voice role] on The Lorax, [the producers] were like, “Well, we already did Lorax, but if you would like, you could go to casting.” And then the lady at casting was like, “Oh, there’s a movie and I think you’d be great for it. It’s called Pitch Perfect. It’s got some singing in it.” So I went and did the audition, and I think three to four days after they called me back and said I had it. A week later, I had to fly to Baton Rouge. It was not me going on auditions per se, it was me saying that this is what I wanted to do and allowing myself to catch the opportunities.
On playing Pitch Perfect's "Butch Bass," Cynthia Rose:
I was trying to figure out which kind of girl [Cynthia Rose] liked. I know they said she likes the ladies, so I asked myself which one, ‘cause you know, there’s so many ladies to like. Does she like the girls who look like guys? Does she like the girls who look super, super girly? Is she chasing them or are they falling for her? I took some of the guys that I know and decided to be them, all those guys I know that go after women all the time. [Laughs.] I picked up some of their mannerisms. That’s why I have a brush. I remember guys back in the day brushin’ their hair.
It was a little strange because not only was I playing this lesbian, which I don’t feel like you needed to “play,” but I still had girly clothes on, so it never felt like all the way dude-ish. My clothes right now, these are all dude, these are all guy clothes but I love these clothes—what do you call it? Androgynous? It was my kind of style anyway. It was a little different on Pitch Perfect 'cause my breasts were out. I was like, “Hm, are we supposed to be bringing those out? The girls are supposed to be down right? Tie ‘em back or something.” [Laughs.] But yeah, it was easy to play.
On getting intimate with Alexis Knapp on camera:
[Cynthia Rose] is always trying to get it, right? It was so funny because in that scene that Beca (Anna Kendrick) came back in, my hand was right on Alexis’ ass, but in the same token, I remember I kissed her ass, and I patted it. I don’t know what they’re gonna do with this footage, but there’s probably someone who’s got it at home for a nice porn site or something. [Laughs.] But it was so funny because it was just me improv-ing.
But oh my god, I was like, “Alexis, get off me! No! I don’t do it forreal.” I was like, “I’m so into boys today.” I’m thinking about it. I think I’ll turn into the real Cynthia Rose in about three years. You know, life change, try something new. [Laughs.]
On bonding with the eclectic cast:
We had to bond anyway for the three weeks [before filming] ‘cause they had us all singing and dancing, and we all didn’t know what we were doing. Brittany Snow had been in Hairspray, so she’d already went through that process, and Anna Kendrick used to be on Broadway. But the rest of us, we would be like, “And what steps are we doing?” Then they brought us high heels and I was like, “These people are crazy!” So we bonded anyway because for three weeks, we all had the same car. If someone wanted to go to the store, we had to come together and figure out how we were gonna get that done.
On the new music we can expect from her:
“How You Love It,” featuring Missy Elliot. It’s a club song that makes you want to go out an get a boo. It’s a very raunchy song.
As told to Tara Aquino (@t_akino)