“Tom Holland vs. Zendaya” is to Lip Sync Battle as “The Suitcase” is to Mad Men. It’s the show’s best episode. Emmy winner Zendaya (still fun to say) killed it with her lip syncs of “Tyrone” by Erykah Badu and “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars, but the reason the episode is recalled so fondly is because of Tom Holland. His medley of “Singin’ in the Rain” by Gene Kelly and “Umbrella” by Rihanna was a viral sensation, with the Spider-Man actor flawlessly transitioning from old school Hollywood to pop music androgyny. It’s great.
It also almost killed him.
“Every agent says that their celebrity guest is a great dancer. Then, when they show up on set, it just really is never the case,” choreographer Danielle Flora told Insider in an oral history of the episode. Holland, who has a background in dance (he was in Billy Elliot the Musical), was the exception. “This was the most beautiful blessing. It’s like this wonderful human has fallen out of the sky and on top of that, he really can dance his butt off,” she said. Still, there was time for only one full run-through of the performance before the taping. “We only did one dress rehearsal with the body suit because then it had to dry,” costume designer Jeanie Cheek explained. The water proved especially tricky:
Flora: Dancing in water, it’s scary because it is slippery. There was a moment in rehearsal where we did it with the water for the first time, and he slipped a little bit when he did that flip at the end, and I was like, “Oh, god. I’m going to lose my job. I killed Tom Holland.” But he was adamant about it. He was not taking it out.
I believe Zendaya put it best:
You can (and should) read the full oral history here.