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For Joel Kim Booster, Making ‘Fire Island’ Was a Real Trip


Ahn was indignant, but as he told the story, Booster just nodded. “As a comedian, with all the pieces I’ve done up thus far, I’m just imagined to be funny, you already know?” Booster said. “But with this, I’m imagined to be a romantic lead, and it’s quite a bit for me in my life to be confronted with that and be like, ‘Am I that guy? Is that this believable?’”

Booster had never been in a relationship before he began writing “Fire Island,” and all the pieces he knew about love, he had learned from watching Nora Ephron movies. But as “Fire Island” headed into production, Booster met the video-game producer John-Michael Kelly, and something in him softened.

“I’ve just never met any person that has made me wish to not be alone until I met him,” Booster said.

He began to rewrite the scenes he shared with Ricamora, pulling from actual conversations he’d had with Kelly. And the film’s final beat between the characters, which initially culminated in a flippant joke, was tweaked to land on something sweeter and more romantic. “It was like I used to be doing drag once I first wrote the movie about love,” Booster said, “after which after experiencing it and doing the rewrites, it felt far more real and lived in.”

The movie has been earning stellar reviews, which has Booster respiratory a sigh of relief: “Once I was making it,” he said, “I assumed, ‘If this movie is bad, I can never show my face here again. I just ruined my favorite place on this planet.’” And yes, he and Yang each plan to return to the island this summer.

“Do you’re thinking that it’s going to be different?” Ahn asked. “Do you’re thinking that it’s going to be weird?”

“It’s going to be extremely weird,” Booster said. “I’ll either be persona non grata or the mayor.”

And what is going to it feel like when Booster goes from “He’s the lead of ‘Fire Island’?” to “He’s the lead of ‘Fire Island’!”

Booster just shrugged: He’ll know when he knows. “I don’t think it’s hit me quite yet,” he said. “I’m not getting Grindr messages about it.”

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