Tunde Adebimpe from TV on the Radio talks about his role in Nasty Baby at the Sydney Film Festival

  • The AU Review
  • June 10, 2015
  • Comments Off on Tunde Adebimpe from TV on the Radio talks about his role in Nasty Baby at the Sydney Film Festival

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Note: This article contains major spoilers about the film. 

Earlier this week, we reviewed Nasty Baby, the new film from Writer/Director Sebastián Silva, which is divisive in its very intent. Following yesterday’s screening, one of the stars of the film Tunde Adebimpe – in town with his band TV on the Radio to play the Sydney Opera House and close out Vivid Festival 2015 – talked to the crowd about the film, why he agreed to be a part of it, what he thinks makes the film a unique viewing experience and why he agrees with some of the criticisms:

Can you tell us how you became a involved in the film?

The co-producer, who is also an actress in the film, Aliah Shawcat, asked me cause we’ve been friends for a while, and she’s known Sebastian for a while so he told her the rant on the story, and she wanted us to meet anyway cause we’re both animators… So we basically hung out for an afternoon and he told me the entire story in roughly 15 minutes and I looked at him and said “yeah totally, I’m in”. Because it really went from one thing to another in about a span of about 3 seconds which I really, really liked.

When he told you about the ending, what did you think of all that?

Well I sat there for a while and was just like ‘okay’, and I didn’t ask him what happened next and we just kinda sat there staring at each other. And he just checked his head and I was like “AWESOME!”. I mean I was repulsed, you know, I was absolutely just so put off by the whole thing but I thought I would love to be involved with something that I didn’t completely agree with how it turned out.

What do you think he was trying to say with the ending?

It’s funny because it screened at Sundance and we did a lot of Q&As and that question came up a lot and he just looked at me and then he went to the audience and said ‘I have no idea’, and I feel like that’s kind of an admirable thing because… it’s a terrible thing but it’s left it pretty open you know, it was pretty divisive when we screened it.

Some people came up afterwards and said “I feel like you violated me, I was on one story line and then it turned into this horrible thing and I just loved the characters I couldn’t leave” and I was like I don’t know, you actually could have left [laughs]. We talked a lot about, you know… that’s actually his apartment on Adelphi street in Fort Greene and we just had a lot of conversations about gentrification in that area of Williamsburg.

We talked with Kristen Wiig, about how in a lot of ways – depending on where you’re coming from – those three characters were kind of unlikable in a sort of way… It starts off as an alternative family story in a hip part of Brooklyn…

…hipster dream…

Yeah… hipster dream and it kind of grows… you have a self obsessed artist, there’s his boyfriend who pretty much goes along with anything and he’s a carpenter and is supporting them… there’s probably some extra money in there somewhere. It really goes from this sort of real Hipster paradise where you’re kind of like ‘oh yeah I get these characters’, to ‘might not like them, they’re a little superficial’ then they turns into ‘oh now additionally they’re murderers’ [laughs]. You realise how petty the thing you were hating them before was: they kinda took it to the next level of moving someone out of the neighbourhood.

The director plays your boyfriend in the film, and he manages to get such natural performances from all of you. How does he work with that and act at the same time?

That was the first time he did it and I thought he did a really good job. Everyone tried to help out because we were basically working with a scenario. There was no written dialogue so we would get a scene that day and then kind of improvise it two or three times and then when we were rolling just kind of trying to hit a few points to make it… you had a point you were starting from and a point you kind of flowed it towards to to end.

So I think that kind of helped and it was also a small production so everyone was there everyday… I don’t want to say in character, but we were all basically living in the same place for a month and a half. He actually wanted to shoot it in three weeks which we found out was not going to happen around the fifth week… [laughs] It was fun, as dark as it got… was really helpful to work with really attentive and present and brilliant actors. Its fun to play around with people who can throw back and forth.

How extensive was the script when you started?

There was about a 2 page treatment which said this is what was going to go down and we would just kind of shoot in scene but we would really just go in and improvise for a while. It’s funny seeing the final cut too because there’s so many side story lines that we filmed, just a lot of things, lot of takes and improvisations, and a couple of big story points that got eliminated all together to make what everyone is seeing now, which is really surprising to me.

When you’re working with the characters and Sebastian, were you guys building on scenes the day before: were you filming in chronological order?

Yeah a couple of days not so much for reasons of daylight, but for most of it yeah we shot chronologically which was helpful.

And for the murder that was so brutal like Sopranos/Goodfellas, was that all in one night?

Yeah that was, the murder from the altercation to the next morning is all real. Whatever sleep deprivation you see on our faces is real like ‘alright dude it’s 4 in the morning lets wrap this shit up’.

Did you have any involvement in the soundtrack?

Actually the song that kind of keeps rolling in and out of the movie, that Daniel Johnston song ‘True Love Will Find You In The End’, after we finished the film Sebastián called me and he said, ‘Dude Dude we can’t get this this Daniel Johnston song they’re not going to let us use it! It’s so messed up. Do you know anybody who can help us out? You know, cause you’re in the music world’ and I’m like yeah I’m sooo in the music world I can call anybody [laughs].

But this was the one time they actually knew somebody. TV on the Radio had actually covered a Daniel Johnston song ages ago for a compilation of his stuff. I knew his manager and the people who handle his business and I happened to be in Austin filming another movie so I met up with this guy and told him the story of the movie while I was sitting there waiting and I was like oh shit I’ve just told him what the story is and this might totally blow it. But he was really into it and was really glad that I came to him because Daniel’s a real recluse and gets tonnes of requests to do a lot and he doesn’t really do that.

There’s actually a scene where Mo was meant to be playing a guitar on his way to his parent’s place and i can’t play the guitar but I also played really loud and really sang off key they whole time and after we cut Sebastian was like ‘No… play the guitar… really play it!’ and I was like ‘I can’t play the guitar’ and he’s like ‘WHAT?? But you’re a musician!’ but it’s not like you just touch a piano and play it [laughs].

I just wondered about the very last scene at the roller disco. What was the idea behind that from the Director and what people’s interpretations may have been?

When it’s pieced together it kind of comes off as a celebration, which is the worst way to feel about it [laughs]. It’s an uplifting song at a roller rink in Brooklyn, I think it’s in Williamsburg, it’s a great place but originally that scene was shot just after Mo got cold feet but then agreed to participate and I remember the first time I watched it just seeing the turning point: he’s completely against it, the movie drifts on and he’s fine with it again. But yeah the roller rink scene was meant to have a few things happen and one of them was Mo agreed to be the ‘donor’. I hope he (Sebastián) uses that for something else because there are a lot of great disco skaters in that scene. It’s a good place to be.

In the movie I thought I picked up on a connection between Sebastian’s character Freddy and small vulnerable animals. There seems to be a connection between the cat, the doe, the baby and the squirrel in the end: was there some underlying subtext to that?

Now that you say it, the first treatment he showed me was actually called ‘Baby Squirrel’ and the video artist was taking slow motion shots of just animals at their infant stage, but I think the way it ended up they represent tranquility or innocence: when he’s angry or trying to calm down the animals try to communicate with him. But I feel like that last scene with the deer is saying ‘Everyone knows what you did’ [laughs].

Nasty Baby screened at the Sydney Film Festival.

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