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The buzz is legit.
Prime Video’s Swarm kicked off the South by Southwest Film & Television Festival on Friday night with its world premiere – a two-episode screening that left audiences gasping and applauding.
“We know that the show is propulsive,” warned co-creator and showrunner Janine Nabers, who made the series (trailer below) along with Atlanta colleague Donald Glover, who directed the pilot. “We know that it’s going to evoke a lot of conversation. We know that people are going to have a lot of responses and may be angry or really inspired. So I just want you guys to know that if you have any feelings after watching this, and if you really want to tweet about it, then tweet at Donald.”
While Glover didn’t attend in person, he taped a mock Cameo message that played before the screening where he pretended as if Amazon had paid him via the fan greeting service to tout the series.
The series stars Dominique Fishback as Dre, a young woman obsessed with the world’s biggest pop star who sets off on an unexpected cross-country journey. The first two episodes include graphic scenes of murder, naked dudes in various stages of arousal, and aggressive binge eating.
Fishback discussed how she was nervous to take the role, which clearly goes to some very dark territory. “I started to be like, ‘Do I want to do this? I’m afraid,'” she recalled. “And then I thought about different artists who did things they were afraid of. And I had to journal and pray. I asked myself: What gave me pause and why? And if I could identify what the pause was in me, then I could address it. But if it was because of perception of what somebody else was going to [think], then I wasn’t doing a service to my own artistry to the gift that God gave me and the reason I’m here. So, yes, it’s very nerve-wracking to hear what people have to say. But I’m very proud that I was afraid to try something different [and did it anyway].”
While Nabers pointed out the series – premiere episode spoiler to follow – is unique in that it might be the first portrayal of a Black female serial killer. “There was a Black woman Glover follows on Twitter and she was like, ‘Why does every Black woman on TV have to be a therapist or a funny best friend or someone looking for love or a teacher? We can be crazy. We can be serial killers too.”
Elements of the pilot were inspired by an urban legend in Houston, and Nabers says this ripped from quasi-reality element continues throughout the show. “Every episode deals with real news stories, real events, or internet rumors that have happened and we put our wonderful women at the center of them.”
Nabers also revealed the show’s title went through a few iterations, with Yellow and Hive also being considered at various points.
The cast of Swarm also includes Chlöe Bailey, Damson Idris, Rickey Thompson, Paris Jackson, Rory Culkin, Kiersey Clemons and Byron Bowers. Swarm represents Glover’s first project under his Amazon overall deal. Malia Obama is among the writers in the room, as The Hollywood Reporter previously reported.
Prime Video will release all its Swarm episodes on March 17.
This story was updated March 11 to correct Janine Nabers’ quote.
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