Interview – ‘Nope’ star, Brandon Perea, on how his audition won Jordan Peele over

Oscar® winner Jordan Peele disrupted and redefined modern horror with Get Out and then Us. Now, he reimagines the summer movie with a new pop nightmare: the expansive horror epic, Nope. The film reunites Peele with Oscar® winner Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Judas and the Black Messiah), who is joined by Keke Palmer (Hustlers, Alice) and Oscar® nominee Steven Yeun (Minari, Okja) as residents in a lonely gulch of inland California who bear witness to an uncanny and chilling discovery.

Thanks to Universal Pictures, and to celebrate the release of the film, I got to chat with Brandon Perea, who plays the sarcastic, theory-loving, tech-wizard, Angel.

Nick: Brandon! How are you today?

Brandon Perea: Nick! What is up, my friend? Thank you for taking the time to chat to little old me!

Nick: No, thank you for your time, man! I saw the film yesterday and I absolutely loved it, and I loved your performance! Jordan Peele, for me, is 3-for-3 as a filmmaker, and it must be appealing as an actor to want to work with a director with his track record. What was it about Jordan and what was it about Nope that made you say yes to the role?

Brandon: So, thing that made me say ‘yes’, was that it was a ‘Jordan Peele movie’. You know, like, I I’ll do anything to be in a Jordan Peele movie. I don’t care what role it is. The fact that I’m one of the leading roles in it is insane, that’s crazy. Because I’d be a co-star as a tree, or whatever, I’d be a gum wrapper on the floor! I’d be the piece of gum on the floor that gets stepped on!

And thank you for saying he’s 3-for-3. I’m happy to be a part of this third one. And I think it’s just far different than what he’s done with Get Out and Us. And I think what’s so special about those films – like Get Out changed the game, I think in just filmmaking narrative pieces – I think, you just see so many stylized things that kind of are inspired by Get Out now. It just really broke down a barrier of what you can do with storytelling through films. I’m just so grateful to be a part of another Jordan Peele film, where I think he’s breaking down another barrier with Nope, and just really being an auteur director with a big studio being behind an original story.

Nick: I read that Jordan [Peele] had a bit of a different direction for Angel [Brandon’s character] initially. And that when he contacted you about the role, he said he was going to rewrite bits of the script and rewrite bits of the character because of your audition and what you brought to the character. So, I’m very curious to find out what was Angel like initially, and what did you bring to the role of him to make it your own?

Brandon: Yeah, so originally, it was just simple sides, right? It was just like, a three-page dialogue of this Walmart employee originally, and it wasn’t the exact script, right? It was just like little things that are switched up for the audition. And the character [Angel] just seemed so basic and flat, like, and just off face value. So, I was like, I gotta do something different with this. I looked at it and I was like Jordan is a pretty ‘realism’ type of artist. When it comes to his films, he really brings the performances to a real place where you think that’s a human it’s kind of really brought into settled place.

So, I was like, ‘what do I see when I walk into like a convenience store’? It’s usually the employees don’t want to be there! “Yeah, over here”. “All right”. “Cool”. “Yeah, you want to do that”? “All right, moving on”. So, I just brought that type of energy to it. It was [originally] so happy go lucky. And I’m like, “Who the hell is ever happy go lucky when I walk in”? No one! Okay, I’m not going to bring that to the table.

In the middle of the script, there’s this change that me and my reader saw, he’s an actor as well, and we kind of just sat there and said, ‘what if we raise the stakes’? You know, by like, crafting some undertones that we can be talking and some secret code that we’re running some crazy crypto drug operation, let’s just raise the stakes! So, just to make the scene different, we just have this depressed kid that’s talking about something crazy in code. And that’s what we introduced ourselves with and it was just different enough than what he wrote for. I don’t know what the original intention was, but that’s kind of what I got from it.

Nick: I felt your performance brought a whole new element to the film. One that I think really solidified the comedic dynamic of the film, which is something that Jordan Peele does pretty well – including a mixture of comedy and social commentary. And one of the central themes of Nope is the ideology clash of ignoring hysteria and ignoring spectacle in the hope that it goes away, but also sort of capitalising on it. Can you give me your take on why Peele is great at using horror, or sci-fi in this case, to explore these deeper themes?

Brandon: Yeah, I think that’s what’s great about Jordan is that he can bring things to a real place through metaphorical things. I think Get Out was pretty direct, and then I think Us was kind of direct, but you really had to dive in to figure it out. And then I think this film is less so direct. There’s so many metaphors that you can take from in all these different meanings, that you can just correlate certain things to and connect certain things.

I think that’s what’s going to be intriguing, is to hear what other people in the audience take from it, because there’s just so many different aspects that you can touch on. I think that’s just this new wave that Jordan is really firing with and to do it through horror and sci fi, so people do have the intrigue of being scared. People have intrigue of the unknown. And the fact that he brings it to real places, with just great acting from like a Daniel, Kiki, Steven – they perform so well, where you’re just thinking that these are real humans walking around on earth, that are going through this. It’s like, not so performative. It’s just so grounded. And I think that’s what Jordan is changing the game with. In that sense, we’re just giving really grounded performances with commentary involved also, with different meanings in so many different ways. I’m so excited to see people’s reaction for it.

Nick: You mentioned your co-stars, Daniel [Kaluuya], Kiki [Palmer], and Steven [Yuen], and I think you have to put yourself in there as well! I don’t think this movie works without you, Brandon!

Brandon: I gotta let other people do that! I can’t do that!

Nick: I’ll do it then, you deserve it!

Brandon: I appreciate it!

Nick: You character, Angel, is a believer of the extra-terrestrial. He’s a fan of Ancient Aliens and doesn’t mind going down the rabbit hole of the unknown. Is there anything that you follow or any hobbies that you have that you obsess over as much as Angel does in this film?

Brandon: That’s a great question, man. Yeah, I obsess over mixed martial arts. I’m a big fan. I hear you’re Australian, so, I’m like, into Robert Whittaker and Alexander Volkanovski. The UFC you know.

Nick: How good was the Volkanovski/Holloway fight?

Brandon: That was great, man. Yeah, I’m a Holloway fan and it was just awesome. Volk, you got all the flowers in the world! Pound for pound best fighter right now! This is good stuff! But that’s where I dive in hard, MMA. I’m a big nerd!

And then I recently got introduced to rock climbing about a little over a year ago. So, I just went down that rabbit hole of all the YouTube videos and rock climbing films, and I’m just obsessed where I was just really deep diving into that as well. Whenever I get into a hobby, I get pretty obsessive. It used to be BMX back in the day, and skateboarding back in the day, and it just keeps changing and growing and evolving. And it’s cool to get all those little pieces and still keep them all with me to this day and just trying to learn and expand. But my deep dive isn’t into aliens yet!

Nick: Well, I think this movie is going to act as a vehicle for a lot of people to deep dive into aliens! I have one last question for you. Everyone has one, mine is roller coasters. Brandon, what’s your ‘nope’? What are you just ‘noping’ at?

Brandon: Yeah, my ‘nope’! The thing is, I say nope to going out a lot. I like being at home and chilling. It’s funny that you’re in Australia because one of my things is that I want to stay at home and watch Love Island Australia season three! I say nope to the bars and clubs, because I love that show and waiting for that new episode to come out!

Nick: Brandon, thank you so much for your time! I hope once people start travelling for junkets again soon, we can do one of these face-to-face when you’re in Australia next! I think it would be a lot of fun!

Brandon: Let’s do it! You truly crushed it, man! Thank you so much for your time!

Thank you again to Brandon and Universal Pictures! Nope is in Australian cinemas August 11.

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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