Jordan Peele and the cast of ‘Us’ was all over SXSW this weekend. The horror film is building a ton of hype amongst fans and by all accounts it lived up to it. You can check out our review here. While Peele is getting a lot of the attention with several other anticipated projects including ‘The Twlight Zone’ and an upcoming ‘Candyman’ remake – Lupita Nyong’o, and Winston Duke took center stage on Buzzfeed News show PROFILE that had a live taping during SXSW.
They touch on diversity in filmmaking, their doppelgangers and what it was like to watch their film with an audience for the first time at the SXSW opening film event in Austin, Texas. Check out the interview below.
On how JORDAN PEELE opens up more opportunities for diversity behind the scene:
PEELE: “It’s an important thing in every aspect of the filmmaking. In terms of the on-screen representation, for so long in the industry these business ideas that black people can’t open movies overseas. These myths that are brought on by a systemic racism, it’s a self-perpetuating prophecy. If we don’t give people opportunities, then we don’t have opportunities. We need opportunities to succeed and opportunities to fail the way white people get. That’s a big part of it, you can focus project by project, role by role. What was important to me with this movie was I got to see a horror movie with a black family. That I could make a dope horror movie not be about race. Hopefully, we can make some money, once again show the world what they’ve been seeing over the past few years. That it’s a worthy investment artistically and monetarily to see fresh talent, to see stories and perspectives that we’ve been deprived of for so many years. I’m always looking to further the conversation with my movies.”
On nuances of creating a nuclear family of doppelgangers:
PEELE: “With our nuclear family of doppelgangers, our tethered family a lot of what we did was making them deeper than a surface level monster. They aren’t just there for the scare these are individual characters that have depth. Working with all the actors, these guys are part of what’s called the Yale black mafia. This incredible squad of black Yale-trained actors, that’s just killing it. Working these actors with their training and their methodology, really taught me a lot about what it means to dig deep and deeper and deeper. That was wonderful. We talked about them on a lot of levels, I very challenged by them. One of the ways we talked about these characters was their physicality. I’m terrified of roaches and water bugs. They’re still on the wall and then they move, there’s something sentient about them they know more than me. That was the starting point for me.”
On what it was like to play both the happy family and the red family in the film:
NYONG’O: “The characters we play are distinct, and separate but also linked. It was a challenge to sort it out in my head I’ve never done that. As an actor, you invest in one perspective, and you advocate for that perspective. Here you had to do that, then the next day be on the complete opposite of that perspective. I needed to have the laws of each character in my head and shortcuts for dialing into one and then the other. Often, it’d be interchangeable, playing one character one day and the next the other.”
DUKE: “I tended to stay in the character a lot, even in between takes and lunch I would stay Gabe [Winston’s Character in Us]. Lupita can attest to this, but she was sleeping I wasn’t. I was knocking on her door saying wanna get lunch, you look great today. I was always Gabe at all times. It also really helped that we could be Abraham and Red [Lupita & Winston’s doppelgangers in Us] together that was a beautiful experience. We could sit in a room in silence, staring at each other and creep everybody out.”
On what it means to push the boundaries with racial commentary in his filmmaking:
PEELE: “I think there probably is such a thing as pushing too far, and there’s missing the mark. The biggest crime I can do as an artist is put forth something that doesn’t work. Sometimes that will be because I’ve made some wrong choices along the way. I’m a comedy guy In my DNA as an artist is the desire to provoke. I think if I’m not doing something that might piss people off I’m probably doing it wrong. I think the biggest mistake I can make as a performer, is creating something that lands as being a bully somehow as opposed to lifting up the underdog. That happens in comedy, sometimes you want to be a little mischievous and you step over that line, and that always teaches me a lesson.”
On what it was like to watch the film with an audience for the first time:
PEELE: “You work on a project like this for months, over a year, and try to get it perfect. I love it, it’s my baby and I delivered the film and it never ceases to amaze that the final piece of creating something like this is experiencing it with an audience. It was a blast another one of the best nights of my life.
NYONG’O: “It was incredible to watch it with an audience. I watched it once before and it’s not an easy thing to watch myself in a film let alone twice. The first time I saw it, it went over my head a bit. This film has so much in it so the audience helped me to get out of my own head and experience the film as a member of the audience. They were so generous and in it, I saw things through their reactions that I didn’t see before. I think one of Jordan’s strengths as a filmmaker is that he layers his films with so many different themes and devices and goodies. It was great to see things that I wasn’t aware of when we were shooting.”
On the surprising reactions to WINSTON DUKE’s thighs in Us:
WINSTON: “Yeah, I was definitely surprised by a couple of moments. So my thighs are a thing apparently, and whenever they come out things happen. I still never expect how that’s going to play. Hearing people say ‘ooooh’ there they go. I never feel like the experience is complete until the audience gets there. To me, they’re the final character of any performance. Whether it’s the stage, whether it’s a film I never feel like it’s complete. They tell me how things are playing, and they let me know how much they’re picking up. Some of the nuances I didn’t notice many things and didn’t know how things would play until last night. Jordan has this real talent for knowing how nuance is going to manifest from the lense of the audience. It was beautiful last night, and SXSW couldn’t be a better audience.”
On who the red version of themselves:
DUKE: “That’s a really hard question to answer because to me Abraham is defined by experiences and an experience a lack of agency. In a way that I’m not used to and a way that I can’t fully imagine what that would do to me. Because being able to think clearly is really important to me. Being able to speak and express myself means everything to me. Being able to be seen and appreciated and recognized means everything to me. Imagine a life without those things is really hard to comprehend what that would do to the version of Winston that you know.”
PEELE: “In the early days of developing this concept and the way I would talk to the actors about it early on I thought of these tethered or the red characters as at least figuratively as a manifestation of our internal darkness, of our guilt and the things that we suppress. We all have that shadow self in us somewhere. This movie is about exploring it not only as an individual but as a group what the shadow self of our family, our faction, or what the shadow self of our country is. I think the tethered version of myself is probably the one making these fucked up movies.”
On what JORDAN PEELE wants to see more in horror as a genre:
PEELE: “I’m a fan of horror. I love most offerings in that space. I’m not a hater, a film can have any budget, any idea. As long as someone is basing a horror movie on a truth, a personal truth. Obviously I love the artists who are pushing the boundaries and giving us their own unique voice. Ari Aster who did Hereditary I think is incredible, Andrés Muschietti who does the It movies is just a master. We’re in a dope time for horror.”
On what attracted LUPITA NYONG’O to the project:
NYONG’O: “Jordan Peele. Get Out came out when I was making Black Panther and Black Panther was intense and all encompassing. But I found time to go to the cinema 5 times in one month to watch Get Out. I was an aficionado, I loved it. I loved the conversations I would have afterwards. We would pick up the phone, and just have full conversations. He created a cinematic experience that we could grab and take with us. It became such a joy to just live in his mind, so I was like I need to work with that guy right there. A few months later I got this offer, I said I’m doing it whatever it is. I’m not a horror fan myself I stopped watching horror after I was 8 and I realized I didn’t have to prove anything. I read the script with one eye. When I finished I was like what is this film about because I could tell it was more than met the eye.”