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Jordan Peele Shares One Tricky Thing About Forwarding Black Horror And What He Did Differently In Nope

Jordan Peele on the Twilight Zone.
(Image credit: Paramount Plus)

Jordan Peele has been a pioneer, not only in creating original horror films but in having his projects filled with a Black leading cast. After starting out in the entertainment industry as a comedy sketch actor in Mad TV and Key & Peele, he finally got his first horror film in writing, directing, and producing the Oscar-winning movie Get Out. Next came Us, which can re-awaken anyone’s fear of doppelgängers. Peele continues to forward black horror with his new flick Nope and shares what exactly he did differently with this movie.

The Oscar winning filmmaker has always believed horror and comedy can blend well together. In a conversation covered by Essence, Peele spoke to his lead actor Daniel Kaluuya about what he did differently in Nope to further forward the black horror genre. 

It's so tricky being considered in the vanguard of Black horror, because obviously Black horror is so very real, and it's hard to do it in a way that's not retraumatizing and sad. I was going into my third horror film starring Black leads, and somewhere in the process I realized that the movie had to be about Black joy as well, in order to fit what the world needs at this moment. So that is part of why there's sort of a spectrum of tonality of genre in here, because I wanted to give the horror, but I also wanted to give our characters agency and adventure and hope and joy and fun that they deserve.

Based on the terrifying Nope trailer, it looks like this sci-fi horror film will be showing us plenty of “Black joy” as we see Keke Palmer’s character proudly advertise her Black-owned horse training business in Hollywood with her less than enthused brother and dance to the groove to Stevie Wonder’s “Fingertips Pts. 1 & 2.” But of course, we know the fun will stop once UFOs come into play. 

Another way that Jordan Peele’s Nope is a different film, according to Keke Palmer, is the film does not focus so heavily on racism. That Black leads can just be people leading ordinary lives without race always being an issue. And if it is, it could be done in a way that is not so heavy-handed, like how Get Out spoke of the racism that could follow a black man dating a white girl or how Us subtly spoke about the class system. Peele spoke in Essence about how it was important for Nope to show Eadweard Muybridge’s forgotten and erased early example of scientific photographs of a black man reading a horse. Instead of letting black people captured on film hide in obscurity, he would prefer to bring them to life. 

Daniel Kaluuya spoke about the importance of Black artists pushing the envelope and giving them something new to watch. He described Nope as reinventing the horror genre by blending some adventure with this story similar to Close Encounters of the Third Kind. With the British actor having to ride a horse for the film, I would say that’s a given. Jordan Peele is already redefining the horror genre by making sure to cast Black leads in his movies, as history has seen a number of white leads in this genre. This time, we can see the the Black talents as the main protagonists, instead of the usual racist trope of side characters who are the first to die in a horror film. 

It’s nice to know that we have filmmakers like Jordan Peele who is willing to give black actors and characters the opportunity to show us what they can do in a genre normally fronted by white entertainers. See how the comedic-horror director continues to push the envelope in the 2022 movie release of Nope in theaters on July 25th. 

Carly Levy
Carly Levy

Just your average South Floridian cinephile who believes the pen is mightier than the sword.