It’s hard to believe that “Get Out” is only the second feature film for Allison Williams. Best known for playing Marnie on HBO‘s “Girls,” Williams spent one of her off seasons prepping to play Peter Pan in NBC‘s “Peter Pan Live,” but the movie roles have shockingly been lacking considering how Lena Dunham‘s show became part of the pop culture zeitgeist this decade. “Get Out” is Williams’ first real moment on the big screen and boy is it a good one.
Peele’s impressive feature directorial debut centers on a young New York City couple, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Williams), who take a weekend trip to meet Rose’s parents (Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener) who live in a small village in upstate New York. Chris, who is African-American is slightly nervous about meeting his girlfriend’s family especially when she tells him she hasn’t told them he’s black. The more time he spends at their home the weirder the family seems to be. And there’s also the family’s two black employees Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and Walter (Marcus Henderson) who seem strangely out of place. The only person keeping Chris centered with reality is his best friend (Lil Rel Howery), a TCA officer watching his dog back home. Peele lets the entire cast shine including Williams who gets to show a different side than the character she’s played on “Girls” for six seasons.
The wonderfully upbeat Williams jumped on the phone to talk about “Get Out” and a little about “Girls” which begins its final season Sunday on HBO.
The Playlist: So congratulations on the movie!
Allison Williams: Thank you so much! Have you seen it?
I missed it at Sundance, but I saw it in L.A. about two weeks ago and I thought it was fantastic.
Did you see it in the theater with other people?
There were like five other people in the theater. It was not a full audience experience like that, but I think you can even see it by yourself and you get the experience.
One of the things we worked really hard on is to make it a really rewarding second viewing experience. So, I think I would recommend going to see it in a big old theater filled with a lot of people. I will just say that once you know everything, it’s really interesting to watch.
Well, I knew the twist before I saw it.
I don’t care about spoilers. (Laughs.)
Oh come on! I hope you don’t spoil it for other people.
No, it’s a personal thing. There will be no spoilers here, trust. Did you know Jordan at all before the movie came your way? How did you even get involved?
No, I just got a call from my agent that was like, “We’re sending you a script. Jordan Peele wants you to read it. It’s not a comedy. It’s a little off the beaten path. Take a look and if you’re interested, he wants to FaceTime with you or something.” I was like, “O.K.!” I started reading it and from that first scene, I was completely in. It was exactly what I had been waiting for. I feel like I was already planning in my head how I was going to do it. So, I’m really happy it worked out because I was just completely obsessed with it.
I know we don’t want to spoil it too much, but about your character’s motivations were you reading the script and you were like, “Oh, wait, I see where this is going!” Or were you surprised by how it all turned out?
I just understood her fundamentally, as someone who genuinely wanted this to go well from the beginning. It wasn’t coming from a sense of perfectionism and more from a sense of not wanting to be embarrassed by her parents and not wanting her parents to let her down. I’ve never been worried about my parents embarrassing me, so that required a little bit of a stretch of the imagination. They’re so much more cooler than I am. But, I did know what it feels like to introduce two friends that you don’t know how it’s going to go or how they’re going to get along. You know, whatever it is, it comes up in life. So, I thought that was a universally relatable thing. Even if it doesn’t have to do with racial undertones, but especially if it has to do with racial undertones.
I want to get to the racial undertones in a second but because you brought it up when the script came your way were you told, “Listen, it’s not a comedy. It’s a horror, thriller, etc.” because even in the small audience I saw it in, there are moments that are funny and got a ton of laughs.
Oh yeah, those moments are very, very deliberate. They’re timed like almost to the heartbeat to release pressure when you need it. And those laughs are so loaded. They’re like the release of some very, very intense energy that you can just feel building up in the theater, which is why it’s so fun to watch it with a group. The laughs are almost bigger because of what else is happening, because everyone just desperately needs to giggle in those moments. But I mean, Lil Rel is one of the funniest people I’ve ever been around. He’s a complete genius. He’s so perfect as the voice of the audience, and as the voice of slightly paranoid reason and a great [comedically] in the movie. So, I love that aspect of it too, because it’s not any one thing. That’s why it was so hard for me to describe why I was moving to Alabama to tell all my friends and family what I was working on. Because it’s very hard to describe without seeing it. I just kept telling my friends, “You know what, you just have to see it when it comes out.” And they’re like, “Well that’s not helpful at all. That’s going to take so long.” So I’m very relieved that it’s finally upon us, and they can all see it and know why I’m so excited about it.
Was this like a big secret? Were you were not telling any of your friends what the movie was about?
I just told them that it’s like “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” until it isn’t.
Okay, so one of the first episodes of the last season of “Girls,” the second episode I believe goes in an unexpectedly dark, horror direction?
Yes, the second episode, we called it our “Straw Dog” episode.
When Lena was writing it did she have any idea you just starred in an horror movie?
She knew, I told her about it. She’s one of the few people I told about it. She’s like you in that she’s not bothered by spoilers. It’s like, we’re family basically. When I confirmed that I was going to do this movie, I was telling her about it. So she knew about it, but I think it had nothing to do with her writing that episode. It’s something she’s been wanting to do in the show for awhile, just kind of aesthetically and a tone we hadn’t really hit. It’s a really good episode. It’s really, really strong. I’m very excited for that to air. Yeah, it was funny to go from doing a horror movie to doing a scene of this show I’ve been on for so long. It felt like it had elements of horror. It was really funny. It was like using my brand new skill set right away.
I want to go back to “Get Out” though. We talked about the racial undertones Jordan is trying to make audiences consider and a lot of the reaction from Sundance was like, “Oh my gosh there’s going to be so many think-pieces about this movie.” It’s going to make people think about things. Is that something you guys talked about while you were making it? Was that something Jordan was going for and was cognizant of?
I don’t know what he was going for, but I do know that I , especially coming from “Girls,” I’m not afraid of a gazillion think-pieces being written, because it just means the material is being considered and taken seriously. So, I always think that’s positive sign. I was very excited about how messy I thought it would be, that no two people would see the movie the same way. It would kind of exist in the eye of the beholder. I thought that idea was really appealing, especially at a time when, as a country, we seem to be having trouble having some hard conversations. Maybe couched in horror, those conversations are a little bit easier to have. I think that was partially Jordan’s motivation. So when people ask, “What do you think the movie is saying?”, I would never attempt to guess that because I don’t even think Jordan went into it wanting to say any one thing very specifically. I think he just wanted it to speak for itself and wanted to see what people took from it, rather than the other way around.
I think one of the awesome things about the movie that’s really impressive is Jordan’s handle as a filmmaker.
Oh my God, isn’t it crazy? It’s his first movie!
What impressed you the most being on set working with him as a director?
His tone. His specificity of tone is something that takes most filmmakers a long time to hone. That’s a really tough thing to nail, and in a movie where so much relies on nailing that across the board and getting every actor on the same page and having such mastery of the genre of it. Especially given that it’s kind of a specific genre, it’s so impressive. And it felt like it was working when we were making it, but I don’t know, it’s my first movie. So I didn’t know if I was going to see it and be like, “Oh shit, this felt so much better than it looked.” But it came together even better than I could have imagined. When I first saw the complete cut, it reminded me of the way I felt after I first read it. I was like, “Oh my God, I’m so excited!” Like giddy excitement about being, and feeling very fortunate to be involved with something. Excited for it to just be seen by people, excited to talk to people about it. Last night for the first time, I got to talk to an audience of people that had just seen it and hadn’t worked on it. I think a lot of them were exhausted by my excitement. I was eager to discuss it. I just hadn’t talked about it to anyone. So, I was like, “Yeah and then this moment, if you think about it this way, this is what we were really doing.” I’m really proud of it and I’m really excited about it. I hope that people take it in and think about it and let it kind of fester, so to speak. I can’t wait to hear from people what they thought and see what kind of mark it leaves.
Really quickly, since I believe you already finished shooting the last season of Girls.
Yes, we’re all done.
Did it end where you thought it would end? Or did Lena surprise you?
She surprised me, but I hadn’t given it a ton of thought. But it’s really beautiful, and very true to the show, the way it ends.
Oh that’s awesome. Listen, congratulations on the movie. I wish you the best and hope to talk to you down the road. I’m excited for it.
Thank you very much. Yeah, let’s talk again once people have seen it, and then I can go into all the gory details I want so much to say but just can’t say yet.
“Girls” returns to HBO on Sunday. “Get Out” opens nationwide on Feb 24.