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There's pressure to be perfect, to do it right: Janelle Monae on 'Homecoming' S2

Entertainment Culture

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

A multi-hyphenate talent, Janelle Monae is a superstar in her own right but when she was cast as the lead in Amazon's "Homecoming" for its second season, the actor-singer says she felt the pressure to make the most of the opportunity as a woman of colour.

Monae, who has a massive fan following owing to her highly successful career as a musician, has been a part of a change in Hollywood with films like "Hidden Figures", "Moonlight" and "Harriet".

Now as she succeeds Julia Roberts on the second season of psychological thriller "Homecoming", Monae said she knew she had to bring her best game to prove that she could lead this show.

"I didn't feel any pressure but going into it, I did, and that had to do with the fact that I was a black woman leading a show and how there's just so much pressure put on us to be perfect, to do it right.

"We don't get the opportunity to follow after Julia Roberts a lot. We don't get all the roles that Julia Roberts gets. She gets the opportunity to play and be so many different characters. And I think that's part of the reason that I'm super excited about this role and letting people see it," Monae said in response to a question from PTI during a virtual group interview.

What made things better for the actor-singer was that the role had nothing to do with her race.

"Obviously I'm a black woman, so I'm going to bring that to the role, but I had the choice to be so many things if I wanted. It wasn't really dependent on race," Monae added.

Hollywood does not have a good track record when it comes to dealing with black artistes and icons.

Monae's own movie "Harriet", which featured Cynthia Erivo as American abolitionist and activist Harriet Tubman, languished for years to start production. It was recently revealed that a prominent studio executive once pitched the idea of casting Roberts as Tubman for the film in the 90s.

The 34-year-old actor, however, had nothing but praise and gratitude towards Roberts for agreeing on her casting.

"Julia Roberts is an icon. She is one of my favourite actors. And for me, it was an honour to know that I was considered to lead the second season and that she was a part of that decision making. She had to say yes because she is an executive producer. And so that was the highest compliment for me."

Roberts and Sam Esmail, who directed the first season, are serving as executive producers for the show's second installment.

Monae said Roberts once came to the show's set and was so blown away by her performance that she screamed at one point.

"The even bigger compliment was her coming to the soundstage, and watching Stephan (James) and I do our scenes. In one moment, I heard this loud scream and one of the guys in production, said, 'That's Julia Roberts, she's screaming after your take'.

"And I met her right after that. And she told me how great she thought everything was looking at, how great we were doing and how moved she was. She was thankful that I said yes. She was like, 'Take care of Stephan' and I was like, 'Alright.' So, I was coming into a family that she had already set the tone for. The people she worked with last season, a lot of them came on for this season as well. And it was such a familiar vibe."

In the sophomore season of the Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg-created series, Monae stars as a mysterious woman who finds herself floating in a canoe, with no memory of how she got there or even the idea about who she is.

The actor said it was the Hitchcockian vibe and neo-noir thriller feel of the series that drew her towards it.

"I loved the tone of it. I loved the shortness of the episode. I loved the music, the score. And I loved the suspense, you know, the little detail that had honed in on the Hitchcock vibe that it had. It was doing something different in the TV space.

"And when I read the script, I said, 'Oh, they have brought all the things that I love about the show and elevated it to the next level."

Like every actor, Monae also brought a personal element to the character she is playing and that was her "determination" towards finding the truth.

"I was determined to find the truth. I've been like that for a while. I'm always determined to find the truth in life and uncover it.

"I've challenged my church. I've challenged the Bible, I've challenged what people think about sexuality, gender, I've challenged all of that. And I think this particular character wants to get to the truth of what happened," she added.

The second season of "Homecoming", directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez, will premiere on Amazon Prime Video on May 22.

James and Hong Chau are reprising their roles of Walter Cruz and Audrey Temple, respectively. They are joined by newcomers Chris Cooper and Joan Cusack.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Mon, May 18 2020. 12:40 IST