Rapid Round: Allison Williams on 'Get Out's' "Carefully-Written," "Deliberate," "Provocative" Thrills

The 'Girls' star talks about why she took so long to do a movie, the challenges coming from TV and her attitude toward future projects as she moves on from the HBO series.
Courtesy of Universal Studios
Allison Williams with Daniel Kaluuya in 'Get Out'

Allison Williams spent several years playing Marnie Michaels on Girls before she ventured into the film world. When she did feel compelled to make the leap, it was after reading Jordan Peele's "carefully written" script for his "provocative" horror film Get Out, in theaters this weekend.

Get Out, which has a 100 percent freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is not just a scary movie but one that also explores modern-day racial tensions. The movie follows Williams' Rose Armitage as she brings her black boyfriend, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), home to meet her seemingly enlightened parents. But in his time at the secluded Armitage estate, Chris grows increasingly paranoid as he sees the way the few local African-Americans, two of whom work for the Armitage family, are behaving.

Although Peele spent five years writing the script for Get Out, it feels especially timely. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter recently, Williams refused to talk about the movie's many spoilers, particularly the twist with her character, but she would say that she hoped audiences used the film as a jumping-off point for discussions "that are potentially different than the conversations they've had before."

"I just hope people really absorb it and then talk about it and think about it and use this as an opportunity to take a walk in somebody else's shoes, to the extent that that's possible, and to really go outside of ourselves and hear the way we talk and think and the way it might be landing with other people even when we might have the best of intentions," she said. "I think that's one of the biggest aspects of the film, just getting to know what it would be like to be in this situation from a bunch of different points of view."

She did reveal that she, Peele and the rest of the Get Out team worked hard to carefully execute their scenes in a way that keeps the audience guessing.

And for those who've seen the film already and want to see it again, Williams says doing so is a "completely different" experience.

"The experience of watching this movie for a second time is completely different because you're in on it, so you're no longer watching it from Chris' point of view, which you are the first time you see it, but you're watching it from kind of outside of the sunken place, so to speak, so you have this perspective that people in the movie, or Chris, doesn't have," she explains.

With Girls' final season currently airing on HBO, Williams also opened up about what she's looking for going forward and the career advice she's received.

How did you get involved with this movie and what made you want to play this part?

I got the script from my agent with an accompanying phone call that was like, "Jordan really wants you to read this and call him when you've finished it." First of all, I had to get over the fact that Jordan Peele knew who I was and then that he wanted me to read something, which is completely surreal. So I read it, and I was immediately like, "Oh, I need to do this. This is exactly what I've been waiting for without even realizing it." Because I'd never done a movie in all of the years of Girls. I was waiting for something different enough, daring, provocative and thought-provoking and conversation-starting, and this was like a total gift. The fact that he was going to entrust me with a very complicated role, the fact that he thought I was capable of playing Rose was like a real vote of confidence.

It's not just a scary movie, it's one that delves into larger political and societal issues. What do you hope the audience takes away in terms of that?

I think the idea of having a disparate group of individuals in a theater sharing the experience of watching this movie together is as far as we've allowed ourselves to dream about what happens when the movie's out. Because that in and of itself is a very exciting possibility, and there's a potential for after-movie, during-dinner conversations that are potentially different than the conversations they've had before. We're just very excited for the possibility about what this might get people to finally talk about when it comes to an issue that is generally quite taboo and unspoken. And I think Jordan was like, "I don't know that anyone's tried to jumpstart this conversation in the genre of horror before; maybe this is the way to do it." Horror has such an incredibly diverse fan base, and Jordan is a huge horror fan. This was kind of a perfect opportunity for him to try this out. He spent five years writing it. It just stuck in his head. He'd come back to it; he'd walk away from it. And that's reflected in the script. It's like one of the most carefully written scripts I've read in a long time.

What was the most challenging part of working on this movie, without giving anything away?

It had to be done very carefully. So we spent a ton of time charting out where Jordan wanted the audience to be when, and our job was to help him execute it and to make sure that they weren't ahead of Chris and we were all on the same page. It wasn't hard, but it required a lot of thinking and talking and just theorizing about "OK, well, we want people to think that this is happening when this is really what's happening, this is how we achieve that." I think and hope that it all shows up in the final product. Because there's a span of about 90 seconds that the vast majority of our energy went into, making sure that we played it perfectly so that the audience is just going back and forth at rapid pace trying to decide what they think about one of the characters and whether or not they've been wrong the whole time. That's a moment where we were very deliberate about, "In this moment, this is what we want people to think. 'Maybe that's more sinister than I thought.' And then a second later we want them to be like, 'Oh no no no. That's not true. Because they're behaving like this.'" That was a really challenging 90 seconds. But the movie kind of lives or dies by our ability to keep Chris and the audience in step through even that moment.

Since this is your first movie, what was the biggest surprise for you or difference you noticed coming from TV?

The biggest difference is that you only have like 15 minutes to introduce an audience to a character, and I've been really spoiled — I've basically had six years to get people used to Marnie. So when you have 15 minutes before the action kicks off, you yourself as the person performing it have to have a very clear idea of who you're playing because if that clarity isn't there, it will show immediately in that the audience will be like, "I don't know why but I can't seem to pin down: Who is this person?" So that was really interesting and really tricky, and I spent a lot of time before shooting preparing for that and I'm really glad I did because it gave me the opportunity to be just focused on how to introduce Rose in a way that could be efficient so that the story could start and we'd already feel like we'd known her for a really long time.

As you move on from Girls, what sort of projects are you looking for? Movies, theater, different genres?

I would do all of the above. This was so up my alley. This is exactly what I was waiting for without realizing that I was waiting for it, and I'd like to follow suit. Selfishly I'd like to keep myself on my toes. The idea of doing something that I've never done before, that presents a new challenge, that forces me to stretch in some way, that's kind of a perfect project for me — and especially something that has greater social, conversational ramifications. I mean what more could you want? I always ask, "Is this movie essential? Does this movie need to exist? Does it need to exist right now?" And the answer to that is almost always no. But with this movie, I was already 10 pages in and I thought, "We need this movie badly, and I would love to be a part of bringing it to life." And the next time I have that reaction, I will fight like hell for whatever that is.

What would you say is some of the best advice you've received and worst advice?

Some of the best advice has been that saying no is even more powerful than saying yes. The moments in your career where you agree to something or let something go, those are equally important in terms of self-worth and identity and choice and all of that stuff. That was really good advice, especially since I'm still sort of at the beginning of my career — this is my first movie — so the idea of saying no to something felt like insane to me, but I just kept reminding myself that I wouldn't want to be promoting something that I wasn't insanely proud of so to stick to my guns and wait for the right thing to come along, and I'm so glad I did it. Worst advice? I either don't remember it or I've been very lucky in terms of getting good advice.

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