Interview – ‘Nope’ stars, Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, on collaborating with Jordan Peele

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, I got the chance to chat with the films lead stars, Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, about inspiring each other on set and the excitement of working on a film this big.

When you both first heard about this project, what was your reaction and you’re initial feeling about joining the film?

Daniel Kaluuya: I felt very blessed, because I just wanted to watch it. So, it was the fact that something arrived to me that I would want to watch and they’ve asked me to be in it, and it was Jordan [Peele] as well. So, I’m reconnecting with him. And then you’re doing some genre stuff. It was a challenge, because there was a lot of non-dialogue scenes. And that’s a challenge, you know, so I really enjoyed it, especially after Judas [and the Black Messiah].

Keke Palmer: Yeah, I feel super blessed and excited to experience working with Jordan [Peele] in this kind of way with this genre and this kind of character. I really loved, you know, what I read on the page of the character that I played, so I was excited to get into it.

Daniel, this is your second movie with Jordan. How was this experience different from Get Out?

Daniel: It just felt bigger to me. Jordan was more confident. I understood, like, how to carry a scene more. IMAX cameras were different to me. Like, everything about it was bigger, but we still cared about the intimate characters and the relationships within it.

What was it like creating that sibling bond relationship during the filming of Nope?

Keke: I think that was the easiest part. I think we have a natural chemistry together. You know, for whatever reason, I just think we vibe out. You know, I love picking on Daniel! He’s the funniest person to try and get out of being calm because he is so relaxed. So, you know, I always like to just mess with them.

Daniel: It was good man, Keke’s cool people. When Jordan mentioned she was part of the movie, I was just happy that Keke was going to have her moment. That makes me happy when I see people that I like, that have ‘the thing’, get the opportunity to show what they have. So, I love that. And then we just built it just naturally open and kept communicating.

In that sense talking about your roles, both of your characters are so incredibly different. What did you learn from each other as actors while portraying these roles?

Daniel: I love that! That’s a good question! Keke?

Keke: I learned a lot from Daniel and that’s why I was so also very excited. When Jordan told me that I was going to be working with Daniel– I will never forget when I watched the Black Mirror episode because it’s just, you know, that was a short episode of something, but he really shows so much with such a nuanced performance.

I thought to myself, this is a great actor that I would love to work with. You know, when you work with great actors, that only makes you better. And so, when we did the film, I was just very excited for what I was going to learn from him. He’s just a very generous actor, very patient, listens, trusts himself, really does not second guess his instincts, which I think is such an important thing that you can do sometimes as an actor. Part of our job is to get approval of somebody to say that was it. He doesn’t have that, he kind of knows, you know, intrinsically what’s right to him. And I think that confidence also encourages the other person that’s watching. I’d imagine that that works so well with his relationship with a filmmaker, with Jordan, because he knows what he’s trying to do.

Daniel: I appreciate that. With Keke, I’ve found it hard to show joy naturally and like be extroverted. People will look at like drama and think that it’s, kind of, really simple. In terms of like being joyous and exuberant, and then having a reality and a realness to it is very difficult. And Keke has that for free. Like naturally, she just got it. And that was what I was taking in a lot, the decisions you made. “Oh, that’s how you do that”. “Oh, that’s how you can do that”. I didn’t see it that way. I didn’t think of it like that. I never would have arrived at it.

What were your favourite aspects of working with Jordan Peele as a collaborator and a director?

Keke: As you know, every director is different, No one wrong or no one right. But I think the way that he is a leader and being a director is by being very collaborative. You know, he has a level of humility that I think really empowers everyone on set, while at the same time, we’re supported by his obvious and clear vision. He at the same time encourages us to take our artistic liberty to interpret that and use what we can bring to the table. He helps us along the process of refining what that might look like, but he allows us to inform him on the character that he created, which is insane. He really trusts the actors, and also the cinematographer. His level of collaboration across the board is just, like, to be admired.

Daniel: He’s probably the most collaborative director I’ve worked with. He knows that you see it from a different point of view. So, he just wants to hear it. The thing is, like, a lot of the things that we would say about our characters is already in the script. But because he’s so close to it, we’re seeing it from a different point of view. Then he can be more aware and confident about what he’s already doing. So, then it just invites that we’re making this together.

Thanks again to Universal, and to Daniel and Keke for their time to chat! 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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