By Erin Chew, AsAmNews Staff Writer
Nope is the latest offering from Academy Award-winning writer and director Jordan Peele that promises a new take on the classic extraterrestrial blockbuster. Described as a science fiction horror comedy, the film has all the hallmarks of an iconic Peele film, which is entertainment with thought-provoking social commentary about society and people. Starring Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer as the main protagonists, the supporting cast includes Asian American actors Steven Yeun and Brandon Perea.
Nope is the first major feature film for breakout star, 27-year-old Perea. Coming from both a Filipino and Puerto Rican background, Perea (who plays Angel Torres in the film) said he was shocked that he passed his auditions and got the part. Taking a few risks in the audition process to be different, Perea said he almost resigned to the fact that Peele didn’t approve of his performance, till he laughed, and re-wrote the character to fit with Perea’s performance.
“I was shocked. When I was doing my self tape, I thought to myself, what could I do differently to get the decision makers on board and for my performance to shine within a pile of many other self tape auditions. And it worked. I met Jordan on zoom and for a callback audition and then an improv session the day after with him. That was when I was told I got the role, but what scared me was that he asked me to play my role a bit more,” said Perea.
“I thought they has second thoughts on me getting the part, but later Jordan told me in order to create the character I bought, he had to re-write the script for my character, and I am so grateful that he entrusted me with this opportunity”.
With a few guest roles and short film credits to his name, playing the main role in Netflix science fiction series The OA in 2016 – 2019, was the biggest credit to his name and career. Now that he has worked in a Jordan Peele film, Perea says the skies the limit for his acting career, and he is hopeful that he can inspire more up and coming Asian American actors to persist with this vocation. However, it was not always like this, and Perea said throughout his life growing up half Filipino and half Puerto Rican, he always felt neither here nor there and struggled with his identity, his cultural heritage and how he looks physically.
“Before working on Nope, I was always insecure about who I was and how I looked. There were points in my acting career where I felt so desperate that I would play any role just to get a job. I always remember walking into audition rooms with the character I had to play get described as ethnically ambiguous. Like seriously what does that even mean, and what the hell am I actually playing? It is basically an “all ethnicities” role and all of us who are not White need to fight for these roles.”
“It is a very shameful experience at times, and when you audition for these roles you will get a million no’s waiting for that one yes which will change your life. This is the part which makes us second guess ourselves and look in the mirror and question whether how we look is what holds us back.”
Working on Nope, Perea feels the film changes the narrative on what is considered “normal” and “mainstream”. Where social commentary is more in your face in other infamous Peele films such as Get Out, Perea says that it is more subtle in Nope, but it is throughout the entire film, in the script and expressed on the faces of his character and all the other characters in the film. He proudly states that where the film is entertaining, it can also act as a teaching moment for audiences to question their own biases on a host of societal issues.
“In Nope there are a million messages in the film which will allow audiences to question themselves and society as a whole. But it is less direct and more subtle than past Jordan films. I think Jordan did that on purpose in Nope for audiences to leave the theater with their own opinion on things and for them to question their own biases. There are many metaphors and double meanings in many scenes, so I would be interested to see how people react to the film.”
Finally, Perea reflects on the lessons he learned from working on Nope with the main actors Kaluuya and Palmer, but particularly with Yeun, who he has admired since the days of The Walking Dead. Learning the process Yeun goes through when he is acting on set and off the set and being provided feedback on how he can improve his character are things he will take onwards and beyond. He respects Yeun’s work ethic and his ability to be so versatile with all the characters he has played.
“I remember watching Steven on The Walking Dead and respecting his abilities back then. I still can’t believe I have now worked alongside him and see him in action live and be taught and mentored by him whilst we acted in the film. His tenacity, worth ethic and ability to be flexible when needed are skills he showed me and these are skills I will take with me to my career from here onwards. He really made my experience acting in my first major feature film so easy and this is an experience I will never forget.”
Jordan Peele’s Nope opened in theaters in the US on July 22nd.
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