Panic and Pain: Star Anna Diop on Nanny | Interviews

In this clever and agile horror film, bursting with West African folklore, lush lighting, erupting soundscapes and themes of alienation and more, Diop bears the psychological shocks of a woman and mother pushed to the edge of something unrecognizable. Diop plays Aisha with sensitivity and strength, vulnerability yet guardedness and an unmistakable brightness that invites anxiety when circumstances pull her physically back to earth. It’s a tangible achievement – ​​the heartbeat of Jusu’s bold, uncompromising vision – that is nothing short of a revelation.

During the Chicago International Film Festival, where she received the festival’s Rising Star Award, Anna Diop met to discuss how she prepared for the role of Aisha, finding chemistry with co-star Sinqua Walls and filming the terrifying water scenes.

How did you become attached to “Nanny”?

I was aware of Nikyatu Jusu about a year before I even read the script. I was aware of her because of “Suicide by Sunlight”, which is a short she did. And I was like: Who is this filmmaker? Because the story was original, it was bold and it was elevated, and I had longed to find someone like that to work with. When “Nanny” was greenlit, they were looking to cast Aisha, so we finally came across Zoom and I read the date scene with Malik. Nikyatu, she plays her cards very close so she didn’t tell me she liked me. I didn’t know I got the part for weeks. She made me do a series of chemistry readings, but she still didn’t give me the part. I finally got the part a few weeks after that, after that Zoom meeting with her and our casting director Kim Coleman.

How many different actors did you study chemistry with?

We read with five different Maliks and about five or six different roses.

It was probably a good sign that you were in all of them! Malik is played by Sinqua Walls; in what ways did you build additional chemistry with him?

Fortunately, Sinqua and I immediately had so much chemistry, even over Zoom. So it was very clear that it had to be him. I was nervous to finally meet him in person. I was like: Will it still work in person? Will it still translate? Fortunately, it did. He came to New York and I took him out to eat so I could just meet him and talk to him before we started filming, and that was really all the time we had. After that we just went into it.

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