Whose Nightmares Are We Telling? How Horror Has Evolved for People of Color : Code Switch Host B.A. Parker talks to Jasmin Savoy Brown, of the recently-released Scream 6, about playing a queer Black girl who lives. And film critics Richard Newby and Mallory Yu discuss how horror movies can actually help us empathize with each other

Whose Nightmares Are We Telling? How Horror Has Evolved for People of Color

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B A PARKER, HOST:

Heads up - this episode has language that might not be for everyone, so be mindful there will be some swearing.

You're listening to CODE SWITCH. I'm B.A. Parker. I'm a film nerd through and through, especially when it comes to horror films. They're earnest in their goal to scare. It unites an audience with every bit of tension and every scream. But as a Black woman, horror films can be pretty hit-or-miss. I mean, we tend to be the sidekick or the first to get killed. Or in the case of Freddy Krueger, we can get completely microaggressed.

In 2003's "Freddy Vs. Jason," the last in the original "Nightmare On Elm Street" series, of which I was a big fan, Freddy Krueger notices Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child. And just as she's about to get killed, he famously says, how sweet...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FREDDY VS. JASON")

ROBERT ENGLUND: (As Freddy Krueger) How sweet...

PARKER: ...Dark meat.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FREDDY VS. JASON")

ENGLUND: (As Freddy Krueger) ...Dark meat.

KELLY ROWLAND: (As Kia Waterson, screaming) No. No. No.

PARKER: Yes, Freddy Krueger is a serial killer that haunts teenagers' dreams, but I drew the line at racist. I didn't like him anymore. I don't go to horror films for realism, but some things can feel like too much.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SCREAM VI")

JASMIN SAVOY BROWN: (As Mindy Meeks-Martin) Run.

PARKER: Another horror franchise that I've long been a fan of is "Scream."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SCREAM VI")

MELISSA BARRERA: (As Sam Carpenter) This isn't like any other Ghostface.

PARKER: We're currently over 25 years into the "Scream" universe. I mean, I've literally grown up with these movies.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SCREAM VI")

COURTENEY COX: (As Gale Weathers) Hello?

ROGER L JACKSON: (As Ghostface) Let's play a game.

COX: (As Gale Weathers) You know you're like the 10th guy to try this, right?

PARKER: And with "Scream VI" recently coming out, I started thinking about my relationship to these horror films and how what I've expected out of them has shifted.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PARKER: So I asked movie critics Mallory Yu and Richard Newby to come on the show to talk about how horror as a genre has evolved, whose nightmares we're telling and how scary movies can actually help us empathize with each other.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PARKER: All right - we're all good?

RICHARD NEWBY: Yep, I'm good.

PARKER: All right, let's do it to it. OK. So I promise - this is like a roundtable. So it's not just me asking questions. It can be the both of you asking questions, saying whatever you feel. Like, it's totally a salon.

MALLORY YU, BYLINE: Yeah.

PARKER: Yes. So we're going to talk about horror 'cause I have a lot of questions to ask. But right now, first thing is, I would like you both to introduce yourselves.

YU: Hi, I'm Mallory. I am a producer and editor at All Things Considered, and I love movies - specifically horror.

NEWBY: Hi, I'm Richard. I am a writer for The Hollywood Reporter and Fangoria and an author of a short-story horror collection called "We Make Monsters Here," and I am a lifelong horror fan.

PARKER: Wait, do I hear - did I hear barking?

NEWBY: Yeah, it's my dog in the other room.

PARKER: That's OK. What kind of dog is it?

NEWBY: She's a mix. She's a mutt.

PARKER: Aw.

OK, what is the first horror movie you both remember seeing?

YU: So I will say that I used to be a huge chicken when I was a kid. So the first horror thing that I can remember ever watching, which freaked me out - and, to this day, I still can't stand dolls - but it was a "Twilight Zone" episode - that infamous one with the evil doll.

PARKER: Talking (ph) Tina?

NEWBY: Oh, yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TWILIGHT ZONE")

JUNE FORAY: (As Talky Tina) My name is Talky Tina, and I'm beginning to hate you.

YU: Yes. And I saw this - like, I didn't even know what the context was. I just saw a scene from that episode, and it terrified me for so long that I couldn't really watch horror movies until basically I started dating my partner, who is a huge horror movie fan, and I kind of fell into the genre with her.

NEWBY: So I grew up reading a lot of fairy tales, so that was kind of, like, a natural segue into horror for me. And I always loved, like, the darker aspects of fairy tales - like, the witches and the, you know, creepy woods and stuff. So my first horror movie memories was definitely the Universal monster movies.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FRANKENSTEIN")

COLIN CLIVE: (As Henry Frankenstein, whispering) It's moving.

(SOUNDBITE OF THUNDER CRASHING)

C CLIVE: (As Henry Frankenstein, whispering) It's alive.

NEWBY: It was creepy, but it wasn't, you know, super alarming. Wait - is the Universal horror - is that, like, "Frankenstein"?

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FRANKENSTEIN")

C CLIVE: (As Henry Frankenstein) It's alive. It's alive.

NEWBY: So, like, "Frankenstein," "Bride Of Frankenstein," "Dracula," "The Invisible Man."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE INVISIBLE MAN")

E E CLIVE: (As Constable Jaffers) He's invisible. That's what's the matter with him. If he gets the rest of them clothes off, we'll never catch him in a thousand years.

PARKER: Oh, these are classy horror movie classics.

YU: Classics.

NEWBY: (Laughter).

PARKER: This is wonderful - like a mummy...

NEWBY: I...

PARKER: ...Covered in, like, toilet paper.

NEWBY: Yeah, yeah.

PARKER: Like that?

NEWBY: Yeah.

PARKER: Yours are, like - yours are way better than mine. Mine's very anticlimactic. When I was a kid, I was scared of Batman. I had nightmares about, like, the Michael Keaton Batman for a very long time as a toddler.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BATMAN")

MICHAEL KEATON: (As Batman) I'm Batman.

(SOUNDBITE OF CRASHING)

NEWBY: I can see that for sure, yeah.

PARKER: But so, like, I'm thinking about how - if I think that Batman is scary, like, I feel like horror can be anything. But I guess, when I think about horror, I kind of anticipate gory and gruesome. When I used to be a film professor, the first film I would always teach at the beginning of every semester was "Whiplash"...

YU: Yes.

PARKER: ...The jazz film about, like, the guy who was obsessed with playing the drums.

NEWBY: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WHIPLASH")

J K SIMMONS: (As Terence Fletcher) Sight-read measure 101.

MILES TELLER: (As Andrew, vocalizing) Bah bah bah bah bum bum. Bum...

SIMMONS: (As Terence Fletcher) What are you, in a fucking a cappella group? Play the goddam kit.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRUMS)

SIMMONS: (As Terence Fletcher) Stop. Now answer my question - were you rushing, or were you dragging? (Screaming) Answer.

PARKER: Because it's so tense - this relationship - and there's a fair amount of dread that comes with that relationship, so I would teach it as a horror film. Although I remember some students found it inspirational, which was slightly stressing.

YU: Not where you wanted that to go.

NEWBY: (Laughter).

PARKER: That's not where I wanted it to go. I was like, well, all right.

NEWBY: (Laughter).

PARKER: I mean, if they'll watch it, then I'll take what I can get. But, like, with trying to define what horror is, do you feel like horror has changed over time?

NEWBY: You know, horror - the thing that I like about it is that it's always been about metaphors and symbolism, and it's a way for us to talk about ourselves and each other. And I think that's been a constant. You know, even when you go back and you look at "Bram Stoker's Dracula..."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA")

GARY OLDMAN: (As Count Dracula) I am Dracula.

NEWBY: ...And it's the fear of the other - you know? - it's very much a story about a fear of immigrants coming in and changing your society. And so I think that it's really been interesting to kind of see how horror has changed along with our societal issues and fears and kind of what that represents and what is scary to which audience.

When I watch horror, I think about Roger Ebert's quote of movies being empathy machines. And for me, I think that horror is one of the best ways to feel empathy towards, you know, another person or another group of people...

PARKER: It's so instinctual, yeah.

NEWBY: ...Which is interesting because, like, it is so often dismissed as just being about bloodletting...

YU: Monsters.

NEWBY: ...And - yeah - and exploitation. But I think that there is so much compassion and empathy that we're allowed through experiencing someone else's fears.

PARKER: Yeah. 'Cause immediately you say that, and I think about "Night Of The Living Dead."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD")

DUANE JONES: (As Ben) Let me in. Let me in. Cooper. Cooper.

PARKER: George Romero?

YU: George Romero.

PARKER: 1968.

NEWBY: Yeah.

PARKER: And this is the first time that I've seen, like, POC representation in horror. Protagonist is a Black male lead, and he comes to save the day. Like, he is our hero. And then, immediately, at the very end - I'm about to give you, like, a 50-year-old spoiler...

(LAUGHTER)

PARKER: He gets killed by the police, which is a very late '60s thing to happen, but also not that far from 2023. And I am curious - have we evolved much since 1968 when it comes to POC representation in horror?

YU: I mean, I think we have. It goes back to, you know, who is being allowed to tell these stories. With "Night Of The Living Dead," I think that was a really, like, interesting and prescient and still relevant horror story about, you know, a Black man against, basically, the entire world - right? - around him. You spend the whole movie following him and following his orders - watching, you know, him boss these white people around. And he manages to survive. And then at the very end, he's murdered, and his victory ends up being like a Pyrrhic victory. Could audiences back then have really allowed this man to live at the end of this movie? Like, would audiences have accepted the end of this movie if he had walked triumphantly into the sunrise? We think about that ending. I sort of think about "Get Out..."

PARKER: Yeah.

YU: ...And the way that Jordan Peele sort of subverts that. You expect - as soon as you see those sirens and the lights...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GET OUT")

LIL REY HOWERY: (As Rod Williams) I mean, I told you not to go into that house.

YU: ...You think, oh, shoot.

NEWBY: Yeah.

YU: He is in trouble. Like, this man is in trouble because he has just seemingly killed all of these people.

PARKER: It was self-defense.

YU: And he - exactly. But he subverts that expectation that I think horror has set up for us, and he allows his Black hero to get up and walk off into the sunrise.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GET OUT")

DANIEL KALUUYA: (As Chris Washington) How you find me?

HOWERY: (As Rod Williams) I'm T-S-motherfucking-A. We handle shit.

NEWBY: Despite the fact that, you know, we do have this Black lead, we didn't see for so many decades open casting for lead characters. But I think it was really the '90s where we started seeing Black characters as leads, with filmmakers like Ernest Dickerson and films like "Bones" and "Demon Knight," where we're actually seeing that change. And then we have Jordan Peele come in, and I feel like it just - it opened up the doors because not only is he casting a Black lead, I think that he is changing the ending that we expect for Black audiences. If it's made for white audiences, I think that we would have seen the Black guy get killed. And I think that there is a certain trauma porn in that and that people sometimes like to see their predisposed beliefs, I guess, shown on screen. And so I think that that's interesting, too, is that it takes the reality we expect and says, you know, this is how it should be, and this is what Black people want to see.

PARKER: I will say, I recently had a conversation with, like, an older Black journalist, and he was very passionate about the alternative ending that was filmed for "Get Out," where Daniel Kaluuya's character is arrested and goes to prison, and that is the ending.

NEWBY: Yeah.

PARKER: And he prefers that ending. And I was like, why? Why would you want that? And he was like, because it's real. I'm like, I don't go to a horror film for reality.

YU: For reality.

PARKER: Like...

YU: Yeah.

NEWBY: Yeah.

YU: I also think, kind of going back to the idea of horror as an empathy machine, we should be moving past the idea that you must watch a character be brutally tortured and murdered or killed in order to empathize with them. You know, we can empathize with Chris and understand how messed up of a situation he just escaped from or just survived without needing to see him die. And that may not translate, necessarily, into everyday life, but it is something that's been really interesting to watch in film. And partially why I think representation in film and media is so important for so many people is that it validates your existence in this country and also validates, like, your horrific experiences in this country and with this country.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PARKER: Coming up, we talk about the future of horror for people of color. And I chat with "Scream VI" star Jasmin Savoy Brown about Black women in the horror realm.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PARKER: Parker - CODE SWITCH. And I'm talking to movie critics Mallory Yu and Richard Newby about horror movies, including "Get Out," which changed the narrative we were used to in horror.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PARKER: Now this is where I'm going to shift a little bit. Part of me is like, was "Get Out" a blessing and a curse because Jordan Peele has essentially created a new genre of horror that people are poorly trying to replicate that is around this idea of racial trauma? So you'll get a show like "Them" or a movie like "Antebellum." Like, there is this trail that leads back to "Get Out" where they think they've got a bit of the - like, the "Get Out" recipe that is racial trauma, but some part of it just doesn't feel right. With "Get Out," I feel like I know that I'm the audience for that. But with the replications, I don't feel like I'm the audience for that.

NEWBY: Yeah. I think, you know, part of that - and I have very strong feelings about "Antebellum." I think a lot of that comes down to the fact that those projects are just kind of saying like, isn't it tough? Isn't it horrible to be Black in America? And that's it. Like, there's nothing else to it. And Black people know that, right? We live that. And I think that's the same for any minority or underrepresented group of people who see themselves on film. Like, you know that feeling. So, you know, you don't have to show me ourselves being brutalized. And who does that serve? I feel like it serves, primarily, white audiences. In some ways, it's just - it's a guilt trip. But I don't think that making an audience feel guilty is the same as making them feel empathy.

YU: Yeah. I also think that, because "Get Out" was such a splash and it really showed a mainstream audience what horror at its best can do and what horror at its best does, part of the reason why "Get Out" was so big is because it offered some sort of catharsis - right? - something that we could take past the movie. And with something like "Antebellum," I think it fails because it just stops at look at this, like you were saying, Richard. What I'm trying to say is it was still made, and these directors were still given an opportunity to create something that maybe they would not have received before. And that, I think, is a blessing, where we're allowed to now see films by Black creators that don't have to be the level of "Get Out" or don't have to be as socially aware.

NEWBY: Yeah. I mean, there are so many, you know, hundreds upon hundreds of, like, not very good horror movies made by white directors. And it's like, I think that, you know, we can have a place there as well. And, you know, not that anyone aims to make, like, a not-great movie, but, like, you look at so many of the movies that came out in the '80s that people, you know, love now and have become cult films, and part of that is just because you have filmmakers just making what they wanted to make and not necessarily trying to aim for something that's going to get an Oscar nomination.

PARKER: Richard, you don't understand. All I want in this world is, like, a plethora of POC slasher films. That's all I want - of just, like, Black, Latino, Asian folks just, like, going at it. That's all I want.

NEWBY: I love it. I love it.

PARKER: But I'm trying to think of a horror film that kind of splits the difference, that kind of incidentally taps into that idea of trauma but also wants to have the fun of a slasher, and immediately, my mind goes to "Scream 2."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SCREAM 2")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, screaming).

YU: Yeah.

PARKER: Does that make sense?

NEWBY: Yeah.

PARKER: Because there is that pretty iconic opening sequence with Jada Pinkett Smith and Omar Epps.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SCREAM 2")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, screaming).

PARKER: Like, my word.

YU: It still bangs. Like, I'm like, keep going. No, keep going.

NEWBY: Yeah. It's great.

(LAUGHTER)

PARKER: And no one's helping. Everyone's just standing and watching her bleed out. I foolishly - I was in elementary school, and I think I convinced my mom to let me rent it. And so I...

YU: Wow.

PARKER: ...Watched this by myself and remember loving that scene. But also, I mean, I was too young to fully understand the mechanics behind it, like, the trauma behind it. Like, very specific things that me as an adult, now I'm like, oh, this is very intense, very - I don't know if it's - it was intentional.

NEWBY: Yeah. But also just the fact that, as you said, like, no one is helping her, and that goes back to this idea of spectacle. And I think that there's something, whether intentional or not, really intriguing about this Black woman, like, walking up on a stage and looking out at this sea of white masks, just, like, the mob of whiteness that she kind of has to gaze out upon while she's dying. Yeah.

PARKER: Is there a space for horror films about people of color that is outside of racial trauma?

YU: I think that there can - there is space for that racial trauma to not be the main character, but I think it will always be there because that is just the society we live in. And the wonderful thing about horror is that we can take that horrific society and create something that gives us and people like us catharsis and some sort of emotional relief, whether it's just for a couple of hours or validating your experience here. I think there's space for us to focus on racial trauma, and there's space for us to kind of let it be, say, a background character, but I think it's always going to be there. What do you think, Richard?

NEWBY: And I think it's relatively new still as well. Like, I think that we're really still kind of just beginning to explore that racial focus. And I feel like there's still so much to say. Like I watched...

PARKER: Yes.

NEWBY: ..."Umma" last year with Sandra Oh, and, you know, it's a Asian American horror film, and it's dealing with the trauma brought on her by her mother. And I feel like, you know, those kinds of films are also - like, we're really just starting to see people's voices come through.

PARKER: Yeah. We've now, like, now stretched out to generational trauma.

YU: Yeah.

PARKER: We've now - can get that into the horror mix.

NEWBY: Yeah, yeah.

PARKER: There's one thing I'm - this is a personal concern that I have. I'm just going to, like, feel my feeling really quickly...

YU: Yeah.

PARKER: ...Of, like - and talking about this aversion to racial trauma in horror - that it sounds like I'm saying I don't want people's culture to be in horror. But so - I think so much of, like, being a POC in America in our cultures involves trauma. But, like, once you nix that, what can horror be?

NEWBY: I think, like, one of the ways to kind of do that without it being about racial trauma is, like, I think that so many cultures have a rich history of folklore. And I think that that's something that also really hasn't been tapped into. Think back to the original Hollywood horror movies, and it's all pulling from, you know, this white, European lore. I mean, the werewolf, the vampire - like, those are embedded in, you know, European lore. And I feel like every other culture has so many stories that are equal to that, if not superior, in terms of their ability to create fear. So that's something that I hope to see.

PARKER: Yeah.

YU: I think Guillermo del Toro does this beautifully, where he just - where he manages to kind of create this atmosphere of dread and, you know, heaviness and pressure while also giving you an out in the fantastical horror imagery...

NEWBY: Yeah.

YU: ...He gives you. Like, I still think about "Pan's Labyrinth" and those creatures that he created, that world that he created and the way in which...

PARKER: Yeah.

YU: ...It was such a lovely reflection on how we tell ourselves stories to survive. And that's what I want to see. That's the representation that I have been fighting for.

(LAUGHTER)

PARKER: Beautiful but will also kind of ruin your day.

YU: Exactly - just like me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PARKER: If we can all just collectively emotionally get back to that scene in "Scream 2" without the murder.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SCREAM 2")

JADA PINKETT SMITH: (As Maureen, screaming).

(SOUNDBITE OF BLADE THRUST)

PARKER: That's what we need. Like, just, like, the collective communion, just without, like, a full-blown homicide in the middle of it is what I'm trying to find in 2023, but I don't know if I'm going to get it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PARKER: Richard, Mallory, thank you so much for talking with me and letting me nerd out for an afternoon.

YU: This was so fun.

NEWBY: Sure. Yeah, this was great. Thank you for having me.

PARKER: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PARKER: So while we've moved on from "Scream 2" and Jada Pinkett Smith dying in front of a theater of moviegoers, the "Scream" franchise is still evolving. "Scream VI" recently came out, and it's trying to do something different. Jasmin Savoy Brown is one of the stars of this new take. She's a queer Black woman who's been in the last two "Screams," and, at least in "Scream 5," they actually let her live.

I love any kind of Black girl in horror. It makes me happy.

BROWN: We need to get you all up in the next movie, if there is one. I don't know.

PARKER: Jasmin is also the lead in the Showtime thriller-horror series "Yellowjackets." She's becoming a bit of a scream queen.

All right. So we are talking about horror films and about the "Scream" franchise. And I wanted to ask you, you know, as an actor in the franchise, how do you think it has evolved? I mean, personally, seeing, like, six brown people on the poster...

BROWN: That's pretty cool.

PARKER: That's for sure.

BROWN: I think that's one way it's evolved for sure. It's more melanated now...

PARKER: I love that.

BROWN: ...And not just for, you know, a couple scenes here and there. Like, we're pretty much in the movie. Proud of that. It's evolved because there's queer characters now. They're not just queer coded. They are out and proud. And, you know, what I really appreciate about the "Scream" franchise is it's very - it's always of the moment, but without cementing itself in that moment. That's why people still love one and two and three and four, is, like, they reflected that time, but they're also pretty timeless. And that's fun.

PARKER: Yeah. I - this is a weird tangent, but when I was a kid, I used to - we could only print out 15 pages at school every day when I was, like, in ninth grade, and I printed out the "Scream" script.

BROWN: So you had to do 15 pages a day?

PARKER: Every day, and it took me, like, a week...

BROWN: Oh, my God. That's so sweet.

PARKER: ...And put it in a little binder and would, like, compare it to the movie. I was a dorky kid.

BROWN: Whoa.

PARKER: I was a film nerd. And so, like...

BROWN: So this podcast makes sense.

PARKER: This does make sense. I mean - but, yeah. So I am a huge fan of "Scream," of the...

BROWN: Yeah.

PARKER: ...Franchise, but also, I'm just so excited to have you in it.

BROWN: Thank you.

PARKER: But - OK, with the fact that we are on "Scream VI" and your character is, like, a descendant - descendant - that was like, the ancestors of "Scream" - is there, like - do you feel beholden to the legacy of "Scream" when you're doing these kind of things?

BROWN: OK. Here's the truth. I feel like I want to do right by all the fans.

PARKER: Yeah.

BROWN: They're passionate, and they've been committed for a long time. And we are the new iteration. Like five wasn't called "Scream 5." It was called "Scream." So it's the "Scream" for today's generation. And we are queer. And we are Black. And we are brown. And it's "Scream," but it's also ours. And so we're going to do something different. And if you don't want to see that, you don't have to. But you should.

PARKER: You should. I mean, OK. But also, can I just give you just my personal complaint...

BROWN: Please.

PARKER: ...Something that I've been waiting for 25 years...

BROWN: Yeah.

PARKER: ...'Cause when I was little, I was a big fan of "Scream 2," which I feel like had all of like the Black folk in it, even, like, the smart ones that are like, this place is scary; I'm getting out.

BROWN: Right.

PARKER: Good night. Good luck.

BROWN: Yeah.

PARKER: Whatever. I remember there was an original script of it where the best friend - it was Elise Neal's character - was supposed to be Ghostface. And so I was like...

BROWN: That would be sick.

PARKER: I'm waiting. I've been waiting...

BROWN: I know. People want...

PARKER: ...All my life. I want a Black girl Ghostface.

BROWN: And, I mean, as if we don't have plenty of reasons - I think it would be epic and it wouldn't be that far from reality. We could easily justify that.

PARKER: That's my sense of equality, is when we get a Black lady...

BROWN: A Black female killer. Agreed.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PARKER: I mean, for almost 27 years, it's been the same collection of mostly white boys killing people, but a Black female Ghostface, that would be pretty sweet. It's not necessarily something I expect, though. Horror films rarely allow for a depth of character in Black women, save for a Jordan Peele film. We're barely allowed to survive in these horror movies, let alone be the killer in one.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PARKER: One thing that we're trying to do with this episode, we talk about how, in the post-"Get Out" era, there's a lot of horror films that address racial trauma.

BROWN: Yeah.

PARKER: And I'm like, oh, boy.

BROWN: Right. Like, Jordan Peele does it really well.

PARKER: Yeah. But then people try to do Jordan Peele.

BROWN: And there's some people - yeah. Some people need to just sit down.

PARKER: Yeah.

BROWN: Just sit down.

PARKER: But I have a question about, like, how does it feel - what does being a, quote-unquote, "final girl" mean to you?

BROWN: It means - it's such an honor. Like, to get to be a part of the final girl thing is cool, but specifically to be a queer, Black final girl in a franchise that up until now has been pretty white, pretty straight, is something I don't take lightly, mostly because I know that little girls, little boys, little people who look like me will grow up having seen that for themselves, like, seeing a version of themselves in me, and they - how cool is that that Gen Z and whatever comes next is seeing us? They see you doing this podcast. They see me in this movie and this TV show, and they don't have to picture it...

PARKER: Yeah.

BROWN: ...Because they get to see it. I - it's hard for me to wrap my mind around.

PARKER: Yeah. You have kind of - I don't know if it's intentionally or unintentionally - built this little corner of the world for yourself, this little, like, little oeuvre of really thoughtful horror films. Like, I know that you have one coming up soon. Like...

BROWN: Yeah. That's going to be cool.

PARKER: ...With you and was it - is it, like, is it "Green Bank"?

BROWN: Tatiana Maslany. Yeah. "Green Bank" - it'll be directed by Josh Ruben. That's going to be sick.

PARKER: Are you excited?

BROWN: I'm excited. I'm scared in a good way. Like...

PARKER: Why are you scared?

BROWN: ...In a way that makes me feel alive. Because I think Tatiana Maslany is brilliant; so is Josh. And this movie's really smart.

PARKER: Yeah.

BROWN: And without giving anything away, we're being really intentional about casting because I have parents in this movie, and I'm a mixed-race woman of color. And I think any time you cast the parents of a mixed-race person, it's really interesting who you choose for each role. Like, it tells a really different story if my mom is white and my dad is Black versus if my mom is Black and my dad is white.

PARKER: True.

BROWN: But in this movie, I'm excited to be at that place in my career where I can produce or at least give heavy feedback on the things that I'm a part of. So it's not like I'm just joining something, and you all get to tell the story, and I'm just here, but I'm also making the story. That makes me more excited, makes it scarier. It makes me more proud. And it's just the beginning 'cause I'm about to take out some projects of my own. I want to make some stuff that I have control over.

PARKER: Is there anything that I haven't asked that you think I should have? What do you want to say?

BROWN: What do I want to say to the people?

PARKER: This is your platform. This is the masses.

BROWN: To the masses, brush your teeth twice a day.

PARKER: Amen.

BROWN: Drink enough water. You got to drink half your body weight in ounces. That's what they say.

PARKER: Do you?

BROWN: Just, like, at least drink the same amount of water as you're drinking everything else. If you have a cup of coffee, match that with a cup of water. I'm serious.

PARKER: That is my ender for every episode. I say hydrate. You stole my line.

BROWN: Sorry about that.

PARKER: That's OK. We're good. Jasmin...

BROWN: Thank you.

PARKER: ...Thank you so much.

BROWN: Thank you, Parker.

PARKER: This was a pleasure.

BROWN: This was lovely.

PARKER: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF DAVID HOFFNER'S "FRIGHT NIGHT")

PARKER: And that's our show. You can follow us on IG @nprcodeswitch. If email is more of your thing, ours is codeswitch@npr.org. And subscribe to the podcast on the NPR app or wherever you get your podcasts. And just want to give a quick shout out to our CODE SWITCH+ listeners. We appreciate you and thank you for being a subscriber. Subscribing to CODE SWITCH+ means getting to listen to all of our episodes without any sponsor breaks, and it also helps support our show. So if you love our work, please consider signing up at plus.npr.org/codeswitch.

This episode was produced by Christina Cala, with help from Kumari Devarajan, Alyssa Jeong Perry and Olivia Chilkoti. It was edited by Courtney Stein. Our engineer was Maggie Luthar. And a big shout out to the rest of the CODE SWITCH massive - Dalia Mortada, Jess Kung, Diba Mohtasham, James Sneed, Veralyn Williams, Steve Drummond, LA Johnson, Gene Demby, Lori Lizarraga and Karen Grigsby Bates. I'm B.A. Parker. Hydrate.

(SOUNDBITE OF DAVID HOFFNER'S "FRIGHT NIGHT")

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