Away from TV, Diop has been in movies like ‘The Moment,’ and Jordan Peele’s ‘Us.’ Landing her first lead role in her latest performance, Diop is captivating as she commands the screen in ‘Nanny.’
It’s no surprise that she won the Spotlight Award at the Newport Beach Film Festival and the “Festival’s Rising Star” award at the Chicago International Film Festival. ‘Nanny’ made history at Sundance by taking home the Grand Jury Prize at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
The movie chronicles the life of a Senegalese immigrant named Aisha (Anna Diop), who works for an affluent white family so she can afford to bring her son to the United States with her.
She is haunted by the absence of her son, white privilege, microaggressions, the exploitation that immigrants often face, and visions of African spirits, Anansi the spider and Mami Water.
In an exclusive interview with ClassiQ Nigeria, Diop talks about her reaction to the script, finding similarities between her character and the audience’s response to the movie.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You have had some experience with the horror genre from being in Jordan Peele’s ‘Us.’ How did you react to this script?
I was very moved by it. I was very excited by the prospect of playing the role because the character explores so many emotions throughout and as an actor, that’s very exciting for me. We see her long, we see her grief, we see her joy, we see her sensuality, we see her step into power. There are so many colours to Aisha. So, it was very exciting for me as an actor to read it and to imagine myself in the role is very exciting. I was just so impressed by the execution of the story; it read like a novel and is well developed. It’s smart, it’s quiet, and it’s nuanced. It’s painful. It’s sexy. You can feel the texture of everything just from reading. I was astounded.
As a Senegalese-American, whose mother was also an immigrant and a nanny, did you draw from any specific experiences? Did you discuss the script with her?
I did a little bit. My mother was a nanny as well, and an immigrant to Houston. I grew up with my mother doing this work. She ran a little daycare out of her house. I watched her navigate a new space and a lot of the loneliness, I saw her survive a lot of the grief from losing family members back home. I meditated on all of that. I remember and tried to bring it to Aisha. Personally, I remember one thing that really struck me as I was breaking down the character is loneliness and the depression that comes from that. This woman is definitely experiencing depression. That’s what I focused on. But what’s more interesting is the way that she moves outside of that, or with having that, how she still lives her life.
You delivered a moving, believable performance in ‘Nanny.’ What do you want the audience to take away from the movie?
I would be interested in how some of the things that are explored in the film are going to be perceived in a place like Nigeria and how it’s gonna be perceived in Senegal. I’m naturally very inclined to ponder on the ways in which my own identity is a bridge between where my parents are from, my elders, the community and the culture of Senegal. All the things that I’ve been brought up with in the states, in my generation, and the ways in which I, myself, am kind of a bridge between the two. I portray a woman in this film. We see her sensuality, the ways in which her independence, intelligence and her integrity of self was frustrating for her existence in Senegal. She has a bit of dialogue about that with Kathleen, when she says, “Yeah, I miss my home. I miss it every day, the good parts at least.” Some of the bad parts were the patriarchy, the ways that her intelligence was stifled, the way she was abused by Lamine’s father, and the way that that was okay there. So, I’ve just been really curious about exploring that through my work and in doing that with this film, how audiences in spaces like this are going to react.
You discussed the script with your mother who got to be on set for the party scene. What was her reaction after seeing the movie?
My mother is so silly. She was like “you should have worn your scarf lower on your forehead.”
I have a project I can’t talk about, but I’m very excited about it.
‘Nanny’ arrives in select theatres on November 23rd and premieres on Prime Video on December 16, 2022.