The Internet basically erupted (in perfect harmony, to be clear) when EW announced that a cappella phenomenon Pentatonix would join the cast of Pitch Perfect 2. But who would the singing group play in the sequel?
Now the movie—and the secret—is out. Pentatonix steals the show in the buzzy musical sequel for a brief song, playing a rival Canadian group competing against the Barden Bellas at the world championships.
So how did the Grammy-winning group get involved in the film, and how did they keep their role secret?
Arranger Deke Sharon worked on both The Sing-Off and the first Pitch Perfect film, and was largely the reason why Pentatonix was pitched to producers to cameo in the sequel. “When we were talking to the producers about being in it, they said they kept incessantly getting tweets from fans saying we should be in the movie,” says vocal percussionist Kevin Olusola. “That was really cool to know that our fanbase was right behind us supporting it along the way.”
The five members of Pentatonix—Olusola, Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, Kirstie Maldonado, and Avi Kaplan—spent a quick 24 hours on the Louisiana set to film their one song, which they arranged exactly as Pentatonix would have arranged any other. The difference? Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” isn’t exactly in the band’s wheelhouse.
“It isn’t really something we would do in terms of style,” admits Grassi. “It was very reminiscent of The Sing-Off, but it was kind of fun to go back to where we started and do it up a bit cheesier than usual.”
That cheesiness also translates to the group’s costumes. As the Canadian team, they’re unfortunately and hilariously dressed—khakis do not belong at an a cappella final, nor do vests and giant maple leaves—but the producers’ original pitch for the movie didn’t explicitly say which rival group they would be playing. “There’s not much we could have been!” says Grassi. “There was already an American team, so we just thought we were going to be either Canadian or from the UK.”
The group rehearsed and shot their Journey performance three times—“nothing super strenuous or tedious,” says Grassi—but the added cameras and the idea of an international film debut brought on some heightened nerves. “I was 100 percent thinking about that the whole time,” says Hoying. “Sometimes when I’m performing full out, I’ll see pictures or video of myself making really ugly faces or doing weird things with my hands, so I was very conscious when these cameras were coming by to act natural but not belt too full out where I was making a weird face. I was so paranoid.”
Now that it’s in the can, the coincidence of their cameo can’t be understated. Just as filmgoers will see them competing on an international stage, the group is currently overseas finishing up their On My Way Home world tour. Soon, they’ll embark on another roadtrip when they open for Kelly Clarkson on her Piece by Piece tour this summer. Check both of those lofty goals off the bucket list—along with the very exciting idea that they’re now officially movie stars.
“To be honest, I didn’t really anticipate having a movie debut, personally,” says Grassi. “I always figured it would be something a little more dramatic.”
Come to think of it, Boyhood really could have used more a cappella.