BLACK VOICES
03/05/2020 10:00 EST | Updated 03/05/2020 12:46 EST

In 'Antebellum' Trailer, Janelle Monáe Prepares To Save Us From Our Past

The singer-songwriter said her first lead role explores the effects of slavery and is one of her "toughest roles to date."

The full trailer for “Antebellum,” starring Janelle Monáe, premieres Thursday exclusively on HuffPost. The thriller from writers and directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz features Monáe’s first lead role.

The 34-year-old singer-songwriter stars as Veronica Henley, an author who finds herself trapped in an alternate reality as an enslaved woman. Bush described “Antebellum” as “a recontextualization of this country’s original sin and the erasure of history and how it has impacted us as Black people.”

Monáe said that she got chills when she read the script.

“I know that it’s about to open up another dimension in my life as an artist and as an actor, and this is definitely one of my most layered and toughest roles to date,” Monáe told HuffPost in her first interview about the film. “So I had to do some real meditation and prayer. I had to work out a lot. I had to get my head in the mental space to go through Veronica’s journey.”

Bush and Renz told HuffPost that the concept for the film originated from a nightmare Bush had shortly after his father died. He explained that it felt like his ancestors were sitting at the end of his bed as he experienced it.

“I felt like the woman in the nightmare was so desperate for help that she was screaming through multiple dimensions and that this could exist in a different space and time,” Bush told HuffPost of the duo’s first directorial feature. “And then we built out the story. What people will experience in the movie is pretty much the nightmare.” 

Lionsgate
The official poster for "Antebellum."

The filmmakers told HuffPost that they have yet to see a film that explores enslavement through “time-bending” and “disorienting” storytelling. (However, Octavia Butler did just that in 1979 with her novel “Kindred,” which “Antebellum” is sure to be compared to.) 

“I think it’s going to catalyze a national dialogue around who we are as a people, not just then, but today in 2020,” Bush explained.

Monáe said she hopes that audiences leave the theater “understanding why Black women and superhero should be one word.”

“If people can walk away with a deeper appreciation for Black women, with a deeper respect for Black women, with a deeper admiration for Black women, then my job is done,” she said.

She also said this film will spark a “new and innovative way of talking about modern issues.”

“I think that this film will help you see the human experience in a totally different way, no matter what you look like, where you come from,” she said. “There are gonna be conversations you have with yourself, conversations that you will have with complete strangers, with people you love or maybe you thought loved you, and they’re gonna be important conversations for us to evolve as humanity.”

“I feel like subversive art and storytelling is a great vehicle to do that — to bring us together,” she continued.

“Antebellum,” from the producers of “Get Out” and “Us,” also stars Marque Richardson II, Gabourey Sidibe, Kiersey Clemons, among others. The film has an original score from Nate “Rocket” Wonder and Roman GianArthur of Monáe’s Wondaland art collective. It hits theaters nationwide on April 24.

Watch the trailer above.