Before the screening of psychological horror Nanny at London Film Festival, we interviewed Anna Diop, Michelle Monaghan and Zephani Idoko on the red carpet.
In Nanny, Anna Diop’s Aisha – a Senegalese immigrant living in America – finds a new job working for an affluent family in Manhattan. Aisha hopes of saving up enough money to bring her young son Lamine (Jahleel Kamara) to live with her permanently, but her American Dream slowly begins to deteriorate as her mistreatment at the hands of her employers worsens – a couple played with unerring terror by Michelle Monaghan and Morgan Spector. A mysterious spirit also begins to invade her life, drawing out the intense psychological horror of Nanny.
Director/screenwriter Nikyatu Jusu’s keen eye for engaging visuals and her fierce voice on social issues such as race and gender make Nanny one of the most impressive and memorable horror films of the year. At London Film Festival, where Nanny is playing as part of the festival’s Special Presentation strand, we spoke with lead actress Anna Diop on the red carpet, as well as supporting actresses in the film Michelle Monaghan and Zephani Idoko. Read our interview and watch the full video below.
NANNY: THE RED CARPET INTERVIEW
ANNA DIOP ON HER CHARACTER AISHA AND WORKING WITH NIKYATU JUSU
Aisha goes through complex emotions and intense experiences in Nanny. How did you approach the character?
Anna Diop: Aisha is a character that is deeply personal to me. There are a lot of parallels between Aisha and myself, and Aisha and my mother, who I am very close to. A lot of who Aisha is in Nanny, I just had an understanding of. I allowed myself to be guided by her experiences and what she was going through.
What was it like getting to work with Nikyatu Jusu?
A.D.: Genius, genius, genius! She is brilliant. I became aware of Nikyatu about two years ago when she did a short called Suicide By Sunlight. It was so well-written and so well executed. She was putting the bodies in front of the camera to tell this really complex, nuanced story, which wasn’t hitting you over the head with social commentary. It was brutal, honest, engaging and entertaining. I was obsessed with her then, and reading her script for Nanny amplified that obsession, and then actually working with her and seeing her execute this film has skyrocketed her in my mind. I think she is brilliant. I hope to be working with her forever!
MICHELLE MONAGHAN ON THE COMPLEXITIES OF HER CHARACTER
At the start of Nanny, your character starts off very friendly and welcoming, but quickly turns to microaggressions and nasty comments. How did you approach playing a complex character like this?
Michelle Monaghan: Thank you for acknowledging that. She is a very complicated, very complex woman. I think that’s what drew me to the character and really seeing all the nuance and subtext that Nikyatu laced within the screenplay.
The approach was first of all to have really deep conversations about what Nikyatu wanted me to convey and portray accurately. To do that was first and foremost the most important thing. We really wanted to ground the material. She [Amy] ingratiates herself and tries to find the commonalities as an affluent mother with an undocumented immigrant, saying things like ‘oh we are helping each other’. But it is slowly revealed that this woman, who thinks she is very self-aware, is actually very naïve and riddled with her own bias and judgements. It devolves into microaggressions and a lot of tension builds. It really starts to whittle away at the humanity of Aisha.
For us, it was important for me to humanise the character. I think there are a lot of ‘Amy’s’ in the world. I hope that audiences see her perhaps with an introspective lens, and maybe they’ll see facets of themselves.
No matter what, you’ll leave this film feeling haunted and entertained. It is a genre mashup, but it’s also very contemplative. It ticks all those boxes.
What can you say about the horror elements in particular?
M.M.: It’s very, very scary! One thing I learned is that Nikyatu really explores her cultural folkore, African folklore. I learned a lot about this, about Anansi the Spider, and how Nikyatu infused that into the horror element. Horror is a great vehicle to be able to talk about a lot of topical, real-world issues, such as race, gender and economic status. This films really tackles all of the above.
ZEPHANI IDOKO ON HER INVOLVEMENT IN NANNY
Can you tell us a bit about how you came on board with the project?
Zephani Idoko: Nikyatu chose me! I am beyond thankful for that. It was so exciting to be on board. I did the audition, and when it happened, I met her and she said, “I saw your tape and said that’s who I want”. As an actor, that’s one of the best things you can hear from a director, but especially on a project like this. As soon as I read the script, I wanted to be a part of it, so to hear the director say that was amazing.
What excited you most about the script?
Z.I.: There were so many things! I am a horror fan, I love horror films. I’m a Black woman, I’m an immigrant. There were just so many different parts. To see the story done so well and so authentically was a breath of fresh air, because I recognised that story and I am very critical about it.
Nanny premiered at the 2022 BFI London Film Festival on October 7, 2022, and will be released in US theaters on November 23 and globally on Prime Video on December 16. Read our review of the film.