Ariana Grande’s ‘Thank U, Next’ Director Shares How The Video Came Together

According to director Hannah Lux Davis, many of the iconic cameos and references were Grande's idea.

Ariana Grande attends MTV's 'Total Ariana Live' at MTV Studios on July 2, 2014 in New York City.
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According to director Hannah Lux Davis, many of the iconic cameos and references were Grande's idea.

Hannah Lux Davis, who has directed many of Ariana Grande’s music videos, said the concept for the “Thank U, Next” video came together in about 10 minutes, Buzzfeed News is reporting. Davis was sitting on the floor of Grande’s apartment in October when Grande played her the new song, and they immediately began to brainstorm. Grande came up with the Mean Girls homage, as she wanted to put a positive spin on the movie’s “Burn Book.” While the “Burn Book” contains insults in the movie, Grande opted to feature a book that was filled with positive comments on her ex-boyfriends.

The comments in the book were intended to be subtle, where fans would have to pause and zoom in to clearly read them. Sure enough, fans did just that, and the humorous messages written in the book were deciphered. According to Davis, it was Grande who came up with the comment “could still get it” on rapper Big Sean’s page, and also her idea to write “HUUUUUUUGE!” on ex-fiance Pete Davidson’s page. Grande also writes “Sorry I dipped” on Davidson’s page in the video. Davis said that was not planned and that Grande improvised it.

While Mean Girls was the initial concept, Grande quickly decided to add homages to the films 13 Going on 30, Legally Blonde, and Bring it On. Davis says these are all some of Grande’s favorite movies.

“They’re all female-centric comedies that have a strong female lead that’s going through a breakup and comes out on the other side totally empowered and a better version of themselves,” Davis explained.

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Grande created a list of some of the most iconic scenes and costumes from the movie to re-create. The next task, Davis said, was figuring out how to “make all of these moments and scenes specific to Ariana and what she’s going through.” While references to Grande’s life strewn throughout the video had fans buzzing, the star-studded cameos also made quite an impression on viewers. Kris Jenner in particular had a surprise moment in the music video that had fans laughing out loud. Getting Jenner on board was also Grande’s idea and, according to Davis, Jenner was a lot of fun to have on set.

“You never know when you get a celebrity cameo like that how down they’re going to be and how willing they are to play ball and get silly and not take themselves too seriously,” Davis said. “But she was a total pro and she brought so many good ideas to the table. On the first take, she knew exactly what to do. She had excitement in her eyes, she was dancing, and was all about it.”

Another cameo was Jennifer Coolidge, who Davis said actually had Grande star-struck and “shy.” The two had a silly conversation featured in the video, which Davis said was improvised. Grande had such a huge success with the release of the single, it motivated her to want to release the video for it as soon as possible. This led to them plowing through production, filming the video in three days and spending the rest of the time editing before finally sending in the final version the morning of the day it was to be released. To Davis, the hard work was worth it.

“I’ve never had the release of a video that’s felt like this,” Davis said. “I’ve done a lot of Ariana Grande videos and hers were always a big moment, but this felt very, very special.”