Janelle Monae interview: ‘Glass Onion’
Janelle Monáe had been a huge Rian Johnson fan since his 2012 film “Looper” and, like everyone, loved “Knives Out” (2019). “I said, ‘If he calls me, it’s a yes.’ And then when he sent me the script, I saw the character, I got the twist, I was like, ‘Hell yes,'” Monáe tells Gold Derby of getting the offer for “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” “And then they had the nerve to say, ‘Would you be available to shoot this in Greece by chance?’ F— yes. Like, get me off this couch.”
In the highly anticipated whodunit sequel, which streams on Netflix on Dec. 23 after a one-week theatrical run over Thanksgiving, Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) jets to a private Greek island owned by tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton), who has invited his closest pals for a murder mystery party. But it’s not all fun and games as the arrival of Cassandra “Andi” Brand (Monáe) unnerves the gang, which includes Claire (Kathryn Hahn), Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.), Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson) and Duke (Dave Bautista). As Miles’ former business partner, Andi had been estranged from the group, which sided with the tech bro, and casts a frosty, enigmatic presence for the first stretch of the film.
“She’s mysterious. She’s so many things,” Monáe says. “[There are] a lot of silent moments. I just have to give a big shout-out to Jenny Eagan, who is our wardrobe designer. She really made sure that Andi’s clothing was a presence because I didn’t talk in some of those scenes, but when you saw her look, she gave you everything I wanted her to give you.”
The many layers of Andi are revealed as “Glass Onion” moves along, allowing the Grammy nominee to flex her acting muscles in ways she hadn’t before. Since making her live-action acting debut in 2016’s “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures,” Monáe has mostly done drama. “Glass Onion” called for her to do comedy and action, and it also let her tap into her singing background to create the different voices Andi uses.
“When I read the script and I saw the character, I was like, ‘This is a dream role as an actor.’ I get an opportunity to play, to have fun, to really showcase range and to really go to new levels. I’m thankful for all of the films I’ve done up until this point because I don’t think I would’ve been as prepared for a role this big. It was a lot of managing of spirit,” she explains. “There was a lot to keep track of, the whodunit, so many clues left behind. But I love that Rian wrote this role for me to be able to explore more comedy or drama, like the deep, heavy emotional lifting that my character had to do. The action — working with stunt coordinators all in one. It was the best challenge in the most incredible way.”
As with any good mystery, you want to be able to go back and look for all the clues that you didn’t notice the first time — and there are definitely lots of them in “Glass Onion.” “Rian and I had so much fun throwing some Easter eggs in — ‘Ooh, wait ‘til they see that, wait ‘til they see that.’ I mean, all of us because you don’t know whodunit,” Monáe shares. “I think that Rian Johnson does such a great job at kind of modernizing these characters, like looking to the past, looking to the Agatha Christies and making sure that all the clues are there. If you watch it that second time, third time, you’d be like, ‘Ah, they really had the nerve to put that clue right in my face, and how did I miss it?’ It’s one of those beautiful puzzles.”