Interview: Brandon Perea on Jordan Peele altering the script of Nope for him; “I’m glad I was able to inspire enough”

Not every actor can claim that a script was re-written to tailor to their talents.  Especially not one from an Academy Award winning scribe like Jordan Peele.  And not for an actor that is yet to be a household name.

But this was the case for rising talent Brandon Perea (Netflix’s The OA), whose breakthrough turn as alien enthusiast Angel Torres in Peele’s Nope saw his original script moulded to highlight the actor’s shine.

Ahead of the film’s local release, Peter Gray spoke with Brandon about his role being expanded on set, if he was given any specific material to research, and why he thinks he annoyed co-stars Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer.

I made it a point to not watch any of the promo for Nope in the lead up to the film as I wanted to be surprised, knowing what Jordan Peele usually has in store for us.  Reading his script, did you have any suspicions as to where it was going?

When I auditioned for the film I had no clue what it was about.  There was no synopsis that was released to me.  Even when I auditioned for it, and I knew nothing when I got the job.  I was attached (to Nope) for, probably, a little over a month, and Jordan randomly says to me “Merry Christmas” and sends me the script.  So I get it on Christmas Day and I read it right away, and it was just far different from what I could expect Jordan to ever make.  I did not see this coming from him.  I feel like Jordan Peele fans have this idea of what he would do next after Us and Get Out, and it just took me by surprise.  It flipped me on my head! I was expecting something so different, but I’m so glad he’s doing something I did not expect.  You gotta keep fans on their toes, and I’m just so happy to be a part of Jordan expanding his films into a massive level and crafting something that’s such a massive spectacle.  It definitely floored me.

I understand your audition brought a different dynamic to the character of Angel than what Jordan was expecting.  He essentially re-wrote Angel for you.  How much of the character changed in that shift?

So much!  I’m yet to see an original draft of what Angel was prior to me joining the project.  But Jordan said it was completely different.  Even as we were filming, Jordan was adding more stuff into the film for me to do.  I got more involved in the production than was initially intended.  So, that’s great.  I remember being literally on set some days and him telling me that (this scene) has been beefed up for me, or “You weren’t originally in this scene, but I added you”…my role just started growing on a grander scale, so it was so cool to see it grow.  I don’t know what it originally was but they got it to a level that I’m so pleased with.  I’m glad that I was able to inspire Jordan enough, or give him enough faith in me, to go and re-write the script based on what I brought to the table.

I really loved that, as much as this is a science fiction movie, there was that western sensibility and that commentary on the animal kingdom and respecting that dynamic.  Did Jordan suggest any reading materials or to watch any films to get into the temperament of Nope?

Yeah, yeah, I had a great list of films that Jordan gave me to watch.  Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 2001: A Space Odyssey, No Country For Old Men…what else was on that list? Oh, and Alien.  I think those were all the films I had to watch.  I remember when he gave me the list, and I got that list without reading the script, so when I read it I was like “Oh, that’s why he’s sending me these!”

Because I imagine getting a list with Jaws and Alien you’d be thinking “that makes sense”, but then with No Country For Old Men? It isn’t until you see Nope that you get it.

Exactly! Yeah, it was a random list.  I was thinking “What is going on?”, but then I read the script and you start seeing the locations and the setting, and I get what he’s doing.

I have to note your introduction in the film too.  I love how Angel just seems so fed up and that everyone around him is an idiot…

(Laughs) Yes…

And you bounce off Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer so effortlessly.  How were they to work with?

It was incredible.  What’s funny about the introduction scene is that I never met Daniel or Keke prior to that moment.  And I didn’t want to meet them until after the scene.  We’re strangers in real life right now and we’re strangers as characters in this scene, and that was the first scene we shot together, so I wanted to stay like that until after the scene is done.  I had that formulated in my mind.  There was a little (unenthusiastic) “Brandon this is Daniel and Keke…” and I was like (nonchalant) “What’s up guys?”, and we were just working the scene, and, I have to ask them how they felt, cause they could’ve been peeved at me because I was an annoying dude.  But once we were done with the scene I was like “Oh, what’s up guys, I’m sorry I just wanted to be strangers for the scene, but what’s good?!” (laughs).  They were so warm.  Such warm humans and incredible performers.  I knew that as a fan before, but it was incredible to just lock eyes with them.

With Angel being an alien enthusiast would you say you have an interest in that field as well?

I’m intrigued, but not as intrigued as Angel.  Angel is intrigued enough to go and find it.  I’m not (laughs).  I’ll Google it.  I’ll check out what’s going on.  Scroll through Twitter and see what’s trending.  “Oh, aliens have landed in Scottsdale, Arizona? I won’t be going there anytime soon!” (laughs).  Where I think I can relate with Angel is (becoming) obsessed with something and learning as much as you can about it.

As I said, it was just a treat to watch this and see it unfold, and I’m so glad I got to speak to you as you really just brought so much energy to the film.

Oh, cheers.

And your dancing and skating videos are insane!

Ahh, you’ve seen my breakdancing on rollerskates? Yo, you did your research! Man, I appreciate the kind words so much truly.  This is a big opportunity on a massive, massive scale far beyond what I could even imagine.  It’s crazy to be here, and I hope I delivered, so to get that type of reaction from you means a lot.  Truly.

Nope is scheduled to be released in Australian theatres from August 11th, 2022.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.