It’s cringe-inducing when a deserving winner gets played off the stage by music in the middle of an impassioned acceptance speech during a Hollywood awards show.
Which is why pianist Chloe Flower knew she had a problem on her hands during Tuesday night’s Golden Globes ceremony when recorded piano music was used to warn stars like best actress winner Michelle Yeoh that their allotted time was up.
“The first time I heard the playoff was interrupting people with piano, I immediately voiced my concern,” Flower said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “And I knew pretty early on that I was going to become the face of the playoffs. And so I went to production, and I was like, ‘You’re gonna need to find strings.’”
Changing course in the middle of a high-pressure live television show is not easy, Flower noted, but the crew sprang into action to help. The behind-the-scenes team knew Flower was already receiving undeserved nasty barbs on social media — and Flower’s boyfriend had approached her early in the show to tell her the same.
He brought her phone over to her and said, “So, it’s getting a bit intense.”
Flower asked, “Is it bad?”
“It’s not great,” he replied.
That answer, Flower says, was enough for her to issue a tweet saying, “I would never play piano over people’s speeches!! I’m only playing when you see me on camera!”
And she really was only playing then, she says, in the interludes when the show was coming back from commercial break. She was hired about three weeks ago by the production to compose her own takes on classic themes for shows and movies that have been Golden Globes winners over the years: “The Exorcist,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Cheers,” “Top Gun” and more.
After she tweeted, she put her phone on Do Not Disturb and didn’t look at it again. She had a show to perform, she said, and couldn’t be distracted.
Chloe Flower defended herself online in the middle of the ceremony, after collecting misdirected blame for interrupting the night’s winners.
When Colin Farrell quipped, “You can forget that piano!” in the middle of his acceptance speech for best actor in “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Flower says she raised her hands in the air to show that it wasn’t her. The cameras weren’t on her, however, and the gesture went unnoticed.
But it was Yeoh’s words, issued during her speech after winning best actress for “Everything, Everywhere All at Once,” that launched the issue out of the room and into the headlines — and the moment, like Yeoh’s film, was suddenly everything, everywhere all at once.
“Shut up, please. I can beat you up, OK? It’s that serious,” Yeoh said during her speech when the piano music began to play.
Flower could hear Yeoh’s speech in her earpiece.
“After that, I think I kind of was like, ‘Oh, my God,’” she says. “I was kind of in my own world, like, how am I going to solve this problem? I hope my idol doesn’t think that I would ever play … .” Flower trails off at that point, thinking about it for a minute.
It was just a crazy thing, she says, adding that she knew — no matter how it sounded — that the winners weren’t necessarily directing their ire at her.
“I didn’t feel that way,” she says. “It was a little bit difficult for me because I’m a human being, so of course I was worried. I was like, ‘God, everyone’s gonna think that I’m just playing during their speeches.’ And it’s not the case. And it’s not fair. But that was my concern, and I didn’t take it personally.”
She was overwhelmed with gratitude when host Jerrod Carmichael came to her rescue during the telecast and clarified that she was not the villain.
“One thing I know for sure is that production and Jerrod had my back,” Flower says. “I couldn’t believe that Jerrod spoke. … I felt like I was gonna cry. I was very shocked that he spoke and took a moment on television to say, ‘That’s not Chloe, that’s a track playing.’”
Flower has a long history in Hollywood, having spent the bulk of her career in L.A. after studying music at Manhattan School of Music and the Royal Academy of Music in London. She was discovered in 2011 by producer Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and released her first self-titled album in 2021. It debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard classical charts.
Flower is no stranger to awards shows either. In 2019 she made waves by playing the Cardi B song “Money” at the Grammys on Liberace’s crystal piano. Last week, Flower released a new single, “Golden Hour,” that was inspired by the Golden Globes gig.
Glitzy opportunities aside, Flower says her main passion is music education and that high-profile experiences like the Grammys and the Golden Globes result in parents telling her she inspired their children to start playing piano.
“I know that sounds a little bit corny, but it’s really the truth,” she says. “Of course I want to tour and of course I want to have, like, a billion streams, but I believe my purpose is to promote music education, and seeing these little girls who watch me on TV, and then they want to play the piano or learn an instrument, that’s so major to me.”
Also major to Flower: preventing human trafficking. For almost two decades she has been active in organizations that work to prevent sex trafficking and help survivors, including the Blue Heart Campaign and the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking. Wednesday, she notes, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
That’s what she’s focusing on today — even as her friends keep sending her “Golden Globes pianist” memes, she finds herself laughing along with them and taking what comes in stride.
“At the end of the day, it’s not that deep; it’s pretty light when you compare it to darker aspects of the world that I think we can focus on outside of, you know, playoff music,” she says, laughing.
Besides, she still loves Yeoh. The day after the awards, she tweeted: “Still a forever fan #MichelleYeoh !! (And she was much scarier in Crazy Rich Asians) #GoldenGlobes2023 #nevermeetyourheroes”
And the award for gracious good humor goes to Chloe Flower.
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Jessica Gelt is an arts and culture writer for the Los Angeles Times.
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