The Blackening Stars

The Blackening Stars on Busting Tropes and Favorite Films

It may sound like a familiar premise with The Blackening Stars: During a weekend getaway in celebration of Juneteenth, a group of Black friends find themselves stranded inside a cabin, and forced to participate in a game by a disturbed killer. 

The Blackening Stars
Jay Pharaoh, Antoinette Robinson, and Melvin Gregg.

But this a different movie, and the set up is part of the send-up in The Blackening, a subversive new comedy that takes clever and sharp aim at Black horror movie tropes. Arriving in theaters just in time for the actual Juneteenth weekend, the film is less parody and more satire, but with a lighter tone that makes it easier for the non-horror fans to embrace it on the big screen.

Felipe Patterson sat down with the film’s stars Jay Pharoah (SNL, Family Guy), Antoinette Robinson (Dear White People), and Melvin Gregg (Snowfall, Nine Perfect Strangers) for an exclusive interview for the Watercooler HQ about what makes The Blackening different, the films and shows that inspired them, and how their latest film is helping to change representation in Hollywood.

Felipe Patterson: What resonated the most for you about the story or your character?

The Blackening StarsAntoinette Robertson: I just thought it was really interesting to go against the Black Horror trope. We all know that watching horror movies over the years, that if we saw a Black person in the movie, they would for sure be killed first. And so what I love is when you hear them say, “Well, hold on. If they’re all Black, then we’re not going to all die first.” We can’t all die first. Interestingly, we’re not the sidekicks in this movie. We’re all main characters. We’re all fully fleshed-out characters. We’re not supplementary in any way, shape, or form.

You see us on full display in our Blackness. And we’re not a monolith. We’re all completely different. We have different backgrounds. We all have different ideas of how we’re gonna survive this situation. I love to see that they’re showing Black people as fully fleshed out, multi-dimensional human beings and professionals we are.

Melvin Gregg:  Just kind of piggyback off what Antoinette said, it not only killed the Black trope, but it killed a lot of horror tropes that I don’t like. Even after they kill the first black character, there are so many other horror tropes that I feel they use so many times.

It’s not exciting anymore. It’s kinda predictable, in a way. Who better to kill tropes than a group of Black actors and actresses?  Some of the shit that was going on in horror films just doesn’t resonate with us. Like splitting up, running, screaming, and trusting people. Trust you, the voice of the audience.

Jay Pharoah:  To echo what’s been said, it’s not a cliche film, it’s groundbreaking material. Something that’s never been done before. I watched it yesterday, because I waited specifically to watch this movie in the theater. I could have watched it on my laptop but I was like, “I’m not gonna do that.”

The Blackening Stars
Courtesy: Lionsgate and MRC.

The part where Dewayne (Perkins) is in there and the door is open, he was like “Nope” and closes it. It’s like “Oh yeah!” cause nobody going to go out there outside in that scenario. But it’s like, what Melvin and Antoinette is saying. It was just something so fresh and groundbreaking, to be a part of it is special. It’s gonna be something that’s talked about for years. I’ll put it in the same vein of groundbreaking, like Friday or The Barbershop. You had never seen that done before, cinematically. So you have never seen these tropes be contradicted cinematically.

Melvin:  It’s like, this is groundbreaking to have an all-black cast in the world in 2023? This should have happened already. It’s kinda like a gimme, it’s funny.

Felipe: Did you watch any films or shows to get into the headspace of your character? 

The Blackening StarsJay:  Jeeper Creepers is always a good one for me. I like watching that. This is when I see the Black people in that movie. I’m like, “Come on, man, come on dog. Are you really gonna go outside with this big flying bat out there? It’s six foot four, taking people in the sky and eating them. You really going to get out? He’s peeling back the top of the bus like a sardine can, like you really going to go out there with that? Why don’t y’all just get under the seat? He can’t get under there. He can’t get that. So just a couple of those movies. I just had to contradict what I would normally do because I would never be like, “Let’s go in this room…” Hell nah! What are we going where in that room? It’s dark. We ain’t got no flash. Hey, my G, I got 15% on my phone. My, flashlight don’t even work, so I can’t see anything. You know what I mean?

Antoinette: I didn’t watch any movies. I’m terrified of horror movies. I literally had a list of two things that I’m not gonna do. I’m not gonna get naked, and I’m not doing horror movies. And so when they came to me, they’re both in this way.

Then I just kept reading the script and I was thinking “What do I bring to the party as this character?” What I really liked was just kind of kept playing with the character arc. It’s the idea of Lisa being insanely vulnerable and super, super terrified. Then I thought it’s gonna be wonderful when we go from that moment to where things get really brutal.

Melvin: So my whole thing was just kind of figuring out who King was and where he fit within the frame and his individual relationship within the group. Then just kind of let things organically happen.

Felipe: What movie had the biggest impact on you growing up?

The Blackening Stars
Vampire in Brooklyn.

Jay: Golden Child. Eddie Murphy did his thing in that movie! Coming to America, of course. Vampire in Brooklyn. It was supposed to be scary and of course, Eddie Murphy was scary, but you still had the comedy. Eddie Murphy’s movies had a heavy influence in my life.

I like Independence Day, Men In Black and Blue Hill Avenue was another great one.

Antoinette: My mom and aunt would watch this movie called On Golden Pond with Katherine Hepburn. That movie was so good, and this is right before like my grandpa got diagnosed with dementia, and so there’s something about watching that movie that resonates with me.

Melvin: I guess I would say Friday. I was like five when I saw it. I memorized the whole movie.

Jay: You watch Friday at five?

Melvin: Yeah. I grew up in a hood.  I watched what my parents watched. I memorized it and I would recite it because they would let me say the cuss words. So I was excited about that.

I  remember one time I had cast my cousins and my sister, I was like “Okay, now y’all gonna perform with me.” They were dropping their lines and I got mad and I fired everybody. I might have been like six at the time. I just did the whole thing as like a one-show.

That was the beginning. I didn’t even know I wanted to be an actor. It was just a moment I was allowed to curse. As I got older, I just continued to watch it. At one point in my life, I would watch it every night before I went to sleep and woke up to it.

Felipe: What are you steaming right now? 

Antoinette: Just finished the series Beef on Netflix. I thought that was really good. Queen Charlotte by Shonda Rhimes was also good. I re-watched every episode.

Melvin: I just finished watching Survivor 44. 

Antoinette: I just finished watching it too.

Jay: For me, I watched God Father of Harlem, Euphoria, The Last of Us and Ozark. I travel a lot so I watch them on the plane.

Directed by Tim Story (Ride Along, Think Like A Man, Barbershop), The Blackening‘s screenplay and screen story are by Tracy Oliver (Girls Trip, Harlem) & Dewayne Perkins (The Amber Ruffin Show, Brooklyn Nine-Nine).

Check out The Blackening in theaters from Friday, June 16th.

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