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When it comes to on-screen inspirations, there’s one particular actor whose career Janelle Monáe says she’d like to emulate.
“When I think about careers, this person as an actor, his life as an actor only, it’s Johnny Depp,” she said, speaking at a special Q&A at the BFI London Film Festival ahead of the European premiere of Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery on Sunday.
“The amount of roles, from Willy Wonka, to Sweeney Todd, to all of the dramatic roles, [I want to do] whatever is the Janelle Monáe version of that, with those transformative characters that people are dressing up as on Halloween. I’m thinking that level. I’m ready to go there. Something grounded, but embedded in the hearts and minds of children.”
Across a wide-ranging conversation delving into her upbringing, music and eventual move into film, which started with 2016’s Moonlight, Monáe revealed that, while she was delighted to have starred in Barry Jenkins’ Oscar winner, she actually had different plans for her debut role, one that tapped into the themes of her 2010 debut studio album The ArchAndroid.
“I actually wanted my first film to be science fiction,” she said. “But I was so happy it was Moonlight, because it meant a lot to a lot of people.”
The subsequent snafu at the 2017 Oscars, where La La Land was mistakenly called out as best film, she described as being like “the Twilight Zone, it actually felt like a science fiction film,” adding that “even backstage, we didn’t know if we’re supposed to be celebrating or not. It was a weird feeling, like a glitch in the matrix.”
Alongside Depp, another figure she described as having a major influence on her life was David Bowie, particularly when it came to shifting her style of musical and storytelling themes for the 2018 album Dirty Computer.
“I’ve always had like a world-building mind, and I never saw my music career as something that shouldn’t limit anything. It was like, ‘No, we can go far,'” she said. “I mean, David Bowie did these things, so why can’t I do these things? What’s the difference?”
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Samuel L. Jackson