Daniel Kaluuya interview

In Get Out, Daniel Kaluuya doesn’t play the typical thriller/horror movie lead. The character makes some wise decisions as things go wrong. He feels real, his backstory feels real, his relationship feels real, and his emotions feel real. Kaluuya isn’t playing a cardboard character waiting to get the ax; he plays somebody the audience understands and roots for.

With his directorial debut, Jordan Peele (Key & Peele) has given Kaluuya a role with a genuine interior life. The actor is known for his time on the popular drama Skins, but he’s had some memorable performances over the past few years, including a supporting role in Sicario and an impassioned performance in Black Mirror.

I spoke with Kaluuya, who also has a part in Marvel’s Black Panther, about working with Peele, on-set improvisation, and the significance of the “sunken place” in Get Out.

With Jordan Peele’s background in acting, does that make him different from other directors you’ve worked with?

I think he gets it, I think he gets it. He’s got an improvisation background, and me and [co-star Allison Williams] as well, so he trusts that instincts are very important and he doesn’t try and micromanage you. Kinda lets you go and trusts you. And it’s how you trust him when he thinks that things should be a certain way and it’s really cool to have him invested creatively in the process like that, so it was really cool. And Jordan’s allowed that, it came to fruition in that way.

It’s a tightly constructed thriller, but was there room for improvisation? 

I think a majority of the film was improvised, a lot of stuff made up in a day, if it wasn’t working, like you get in the moment, it doesn’t feel right, we have to be loose, and flexible enough to allow for whatever ideas need to happen. I think everyone knew where their character arcs was going, so people were kind of managers of their characters and mapping that. And Jordan allowed us, gave us the license to do that. So a lot of it was improv, a lot of it was right and he wanted it to feel natural and off cast, which is like life, you know?

Did any scenes change quite a bit from improv?

I don’t want to spoil stuff, but there’s a lot of stuff. There’s loads of scenes like the opening scene with me and Allison, where we kind of felt the vibe and did that, and then a lot of the car seqeunces we made up in the day.

We always did it, and there was a scene, this is a bit of a spoiler, [Spoiler Warning] but when we find out where Rose was coming from, I couldn’t do that scene the way it was scripted, really. And then, that was something that we kind of made up. When he was asking Rose to give me the keys, all that stuff was made up in a day. It just felt natural because what was scripted didn’t feel right in the space it was in, and Jordan allowed us to do that, and you need to give where credit’s due. He was open enough to see that. [Spoiler Over]

Unlike a lot of thrillers or horror movies, this is a movie where the leads make some wise decisions. Does a part of you think, “Great, now I don’t have to convince the audience I’m doing something that makes no sense?” 

Yeah, loads of time, and that’s why I don’t really work this much because I say it in the audition, or I say it to them, or I don’t go after it. I kind of find it hard to close my mouth. And again there were loads of scenes where the character doesn’t make sense but the plot is motoring the story as opposed to the character, and you feel it, you don’t write it out, that decision.

People are decisions and actions. You can say what the fuck you want, but you are your decisions, you are your actions. And, unless someone’s doing that to facilitate a story progressing, it’s just, I can always beat it. Jordan ia so intimate with the genre, and understanding what the audience is thinking. He’s a step ahead, and someone like the Rose character voices every single thing that an audience would say in that situation. And throwing bones at Chris and going “Yo, you get out of this place” – I mean it’s like, it’s ridiculous but it’s a device in order to counteract that, you know? Sort of, have someone in his ear that’s basically thinking, and second guessing.

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