Emmys spotlight: Bowen Yang (‘Fire Island’) is hilarious, heartbreaking and deserving of recognition

Fire Island” could be on its way to getting some major Emmys recognition in the category for Best TV Movie. But if Emmy voters are willing to give the Hulu original some appreciation in that race, they should also be open to do it for other aspects of the movie, especially for Bowen Yang’s fantastic performance in Best Movie/Limited Supporting Actor.

Yang portrays Howie, the best friend of the main character, Noah (played by the film’s writer, Joel Kim Booster). He travels from San Francisco every year to join Noah and their friends for a week-long vacation on the titular island that has been a long-time staple of New York’s gay culture. Despite being 30, Howie has never been in a relationship and, unlike most of his other friends, hopes to find romance despite lacking confidence in himself. Things start looking up for him when he meets a hot pediatrician named Charlie (James Scully).

Yang manages to make Howie’s desire for substance with a potential romantic partner comes across in an incredibly genuine manner, as opposed to the cheesy and insufferable way most other actors would portray it. Seeing him let down his guard with Charlie is something you can’t help but root for. What really takes Yang’s performance to the next level is how he shows the devastation he feels when a wrench is thrown into his prospective relationship with Charlie. We see all of Howie’s insecurities come bubbling up and it feels like a shot in heart.

Again, though, Yang brings a good dose of nuance to Howie’s reactions. The way he confides in Noah about what it feels like to be unwanted and wanting to be vulnerable with someone is absolutely heartbreaking, but does it with just the right tones. He not only makes you sympathize with him but he reminds you that he is actually worthy of finding that kind of happiness with someone. He also has a wonderful scene where he sings “Sometimes” by Britney Spears with Luke (Matt Rogers) and Keegan (Tomás Matos) providing wonderful backing vocals.

Yang is already known to Emmy voters as he’s scored three previous nominations for his work on “Saturday Night Live.” He was first nominated as a writer for the show in 2019 and has been nominated in Best Comedy Supporting Actor for the past two years. His portrayals of Rep. George Santos, Kim Jung-Un, Fran Lebowitz and the iceberg that the Titanic ran into have been some of the show’s most talked-about moments in recent years. An Emmy nomination for this “Fire Island” performance would be a welcome addition to this list of accolades.

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