NANNY Interview With Star Anna Diop & Director Nikyatu Jusu On Their Deeply Personal Horror Movie (Exclusive)

Nanny star Anna Diop (Titans) and director Nikyatu Jusu talk to us about their unique new horror movie, explaining how the project became a reality, what drew Anna to the role, and their Storm hopes...

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Nanny is psychological horror fable of displacement revolving around Aisha (Anna Diop), a woman who recently emigrated from Senegal, who is hired to care for the daughter of an affluent couple (Michelle Monaghan and Morgan Spector) living in New York City.

Haunted by the absence of the young son she left behind, Aisha hopes her new job will afford her the chance to bring him to the U.S., but becomes increasingly unsettled by the family’s volatile home life. As his arrival approaches, a violent presence begins to invade both her dreams and her reality, threatening the American dream she is painstakingly piecing together.

This month, we were fortunate enough to sit down for a brief conversation with Anna and Nanny director Nikyatu Jusu to discuss their collaboration. The former tells us what drew her to the project, pointing to her own personal experiences being a driving force in signing up for this compelling and often terrifying story. 

Jusu, meanwhile, takes us through the work that went into making Nanny a reality before they both share their hopes to "manifest" an X-Men movie revolving around Storm. 

So, ahead of Nanny's release in select theaters on November 23 (it later premieres on Prime Video on December 16), check out our full interview with Anna and Nikyatu in the player below!

Anna, I know you had a taste of horror with Us, but what was it about this project and Aisha that really spoke to you and made you want to better explore the genre through this specific story?

Anna: Well, the character of Aisha was so personal to me. She is, in many ways, my mother who also emigrated from Senegal to the States to create a better life for me. I love my mother and we’re very close, so it was a deeply emotional, deeply personal story for me. That’s what initially drew me to it. Just the character of who this woman was, but then on top of it, the script was so tremendously executed. You see this woman go through an entire gamut of emotions and that’s all testament to our writer and director. Those were the things I fell in love with.

Nikyatu, when it came to combining the horror genre with what feels like a deeply personal story, how difficult a journey was it to bring those two ideas together and then actually get the chance to share this story with the world?

Nikyatu: Yeah, good question. It was a journey. I always say, it took eight-ish years to get the script to a place where I got the financing. It’s not because I was writing consecutively for eight years, I was overthinking and had this nagging voice that said, ‘This story is too specific. You’re not going to find the financing. Who cares?’ Then, you abandon the project and revisit other projects, so it was a lot of me getting in my own way, but also, I think maybe that period was necessary for me to get to a place of maturity to handle a story like this. 

I see it as a blessing in retrospect, but Sundance Labs swooped in and saw the potential and I went through their screenwriting and directing labs. My producing partner, Nikkia Moulterie did the producing lab, and it’s really rare to go through all those at Sundance with one project, so they really nurtured us, but it still doesn’t guarantee a slot in competition, it doesn’t guarantee a win. It’s been an anomalous trajectory in every regard.

Nikyatu, I know you’ve said you’d consider a superhero project down the line, so how would you both feel about perhaps teaming up to tell a story in that world, whether it be with Starfire or a completely different Marvel or DC character?

Anna: [Laughs]

Nikyatu: [Laughs] Storm! We are trying to manifest Storm. Like Jordan Peele has his Daniel Kaluuya, I have found [Anna]…

Anna: Scorsese has his DiCaprio…

Nikyatu: Yes! And Spike Lee…who is Spike Lee’s favourite actor these days?

Anna: Denzel.

Nikyatu: I’ve found my Anna Diop, so I think once you’ve found that magic and chemistry, you really want to just figure it out for the rest of your career.

Anna: I will work with Nikyatu for as long as she can tolerate me.

Nikyatu: And I will throw her into every body of water and off every building. You know, we really do want to manifest our next project together in the action realm or just the fantastical realm. 

And you’d be on board with Storm, Anna?

Anna: Yes, I would. If it’s her, I would, absolutely. 

Nanny arrives in select theaters on November 23 before premiering on Prime Video on December 16.

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