Singer and actress Janelle Monae spoke candidly about her experience filming on a plantation during the making of her upcoming horror movie “Antebellum”. The 34-year-old described the experience as “triggering.”
In the film, Monae plays an author, Veronica Henley, who speaks out against systemic racism. One day Henley is transported back in time to an alternative reality in which she is now a slave on a plantation in the South.
The conversation took place virtually during a Drama Actress Roundtable with the Hollywood Reporter on June 20. The panel included fellow actresses Zendaya, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Aniston, Helena Bonham Carter, and Reese Witherspoon.
The discussion came about when the ladies were discussing their experiences in the entertainment industry, and Monae opened up about her troubling time filming “Antebellum.” “Oh, I brought all of my ancestors home with me. We were filming most of the stuff at night on a plantation, and I felt everything,” Monae told the group. She added, “There were just certain conversations even at craft services that if I heard would be triggering for me.”
The “Dirty Computer” singer expressed how it even affected her personal life. “I couldn’t even talk to my family sometimes. It was kind of unhealthy when I think back.” Monae spoke on the internal conflict she had even accepting the role in the first place.
“This is a project that is so of the times, and it was not going to be a yes for me because I knew the responsibility and the weight of it, and I knew what this character was going to have to go through physically and emotionally,” the actress revealed.
Aside from the psychological effects that went into playing a slave, the “Hidden Figures” actress revealed that at the time she was also experiencing some severe health issues as a result of mercury poisoning. The singer said she endured hair loss, memory loss, shyness, and anxiety, among other things that she attributed to overeating fish.
“I didn’t want to talk to people,” Monae said. She continued, “People would reach out, and I apologize now if you were one of those people last year who reached out to me and wanted to talk or engage in business or whatever.” The actress admitted, “I just didn’t have it in me.”
However, Monae divulged that despite the obstacles she faced, she managed to use her illness to her advantage and left it all on the screen. “I used it for ‘Homecoming’ — I didn’t know I had it in ‘Antebellum’ — but looking back at the footage, I used the disorientation and unraveling in my personal life onscreen,” the actress explained.
“Antebellum” was written and produced by Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz and stars Gabourey Sidibe, Kiersey Clemons, Marque Richardson, Eric Lange, Jack Huston, Tongaui Chirisa Jena Malone, Robert Aramayo, and Lily Cowles. The film is set to release in August.