Creator of ‘Swarm’ About Dre’s Sexuality, Paris Jackson and Pie-Eating Destination – Variety

SPOILER ALERT: This interview contains spoilers for all episodes of “Swarm” on Amazon Prime Video.

Rumors of a Donald Glover project with a “Beyoncé-like character” have been swirling in Hollywood for at least two years. And while no one involved is saying Knowles’ name — though Glover has called out the Beyhive and co-creator and showrunner Janine Nabers has talked about “a certain pop star from Houston” — the series is finally here.

“Swarm” stars Dominique Fishback as Dre, an emotional superfan of a singer named Ni’Jah (Nirine S. Brown) who has a slightly unhealthy obsession with her own sister Marissa (Chloe Bailey). When a sibling fight separates them for the night, Dre heads out to celebrate Ni’Jah’s surprise album drop (clearly inspired by “Lemonade,” where Beyoncé sings about being cheated on), while Marissa realizes she’s been cheating on him. boyfriend, Khalid (Damson Idris). Dre doesn’t get help, he dies by suicide.

After mysteriously getting “the family” to refuse Marissa’s funeral, Dre murders Khalid for both betraying Marissa and disrespecting Ni’Jah. (It looks like he’s starting to confuse the two.) The rest of the series sees him on a rampage, mourning Marissa and killing Ni’Jah’s detractors, all while desperately hoping to meet the star one day. In the finale, he finally does – sort of. After hanging up his serial killer hat and adopting a new identity, he spends thousands of dollars that should have been used to rent Ni’Jah’s tickets. This upsets his girlfriend Rashida (Kiersey Clemons), who hates Ni’Jah, and Dre suffers another mental breakdown. He murders Rashida and burns the body, then realizes he also burned the tickets, so he goes to the concert and stabs the scalper to get his tickets. Dre makes it to the front row and then manages to jump onto the stage. As security rushes in to get her, Ni’Jah stops them and embraces Dre—but Dre sees Marissa’s face.

Nabers spoke Variety how he and Glover came up with Dre and all the bodies buried along the way.

Donald Glover and you have talked about how the idea for “Swarm” came about and envisioned what it would look like if the serial killer subgenre focused on black. a woman instead of a white man. What were you thinking when you originally created the character of Dre?

The terminology we used was “stranger”. This woman is a stranger in her own world. If you watch the pilot when he arrives at Khalid’s house, you will see aliens on the TV. Properly. It’s a through line with him throughout the series. We really look to “The Piano Teacher” for inspiration. Donald introduced me to the movie and it blew my mind. It centers around a woman who has a very mundane way of living her life on the surface, and then when you peel back the layers of her complex psychology, you reveal a completely different person who is very alien. But since I’m from Houston and Donald is from Atlanta, we wanted to filter it from a southern black woman’s perspective. It’s kind of like a sister to “Atlanta” when you watch weird family relationships.

In the second to last episode, which is styled as a true crime documentary, it is revealed that Dre had been in foster care before being adopted into Marissa’s family. and was sent back for his violent behavior. We don’t get any details about how he ended up in the system or what it was like for him. Have you ever imagined more of his backstory?

The documentary episode, like “Atlanta,” felt like a bit of a step out, where you can intelligently see what you’re seeing — the education system and this idea of ​​black women falling through the cracks — from a personal point of view. Everyone who is black and southern has some kind of experience with the education system, whether it’s friends who have dealt with it or family they’ve had. It’s a very real thing. Donald grew up in his perspective on the matter. I grew my views on the matter.

But we really focused on not sharing a lens on her trauma in a real way. You can intelligently traumatize, but we didn’t want to dramatize what that was like until we were introduced to Dre, which led him to be who he is. I think a lot of black storytelling can lean on that, but we just wanted to let people fill in their own gaps in the story. How he got to where he was is a mystery, and that’s okay. It’s okay not to know everything.

Speaking of how race works in the show, I’m curious about the white characters. When Dre goes dancing to the new Ni’Jah album, he loses his virginity to a guy at the club. Why is he white?

I originally saw him as a black man. There is an actor in the show [Byron Bowers] that I wanted for that role originally, and I pitched it to Donald, and Donald said, “We could do that, or we could put him in another character that feels like it’s going to lean more towards a white guy, and let’s put a white guy in this role, which seems to lean towards the black man.” Our character in Episode 3 was written as a white guy, and we’re subverting that a bit as well. It’s really clever and funny because you wouldn’t see someone like her losing her virginity to a white man. You’ve never seen a black man talk about an eating disorder.

Quantrell D. Colbert / Prime Video

What about the character played by Michael Jackson’s daughter Paris Jackson? Hailey passes as white but calls herself Black because she has one black grandparent? Was that role written for Paris, or did she come later?

Our casting director, Carmen Cuba, was fantastic. He threw Paris Jackson and we all fell. We were like, “Right. That’s what we’re talking about.”

Paris was great. He is a professional. He came in and asked all the right questions. I’m a Jewish woman, he identifies as Jewish, so we’re committed to that. And he trusted us. He said: “I understand what this role is and that’s how I’m going to approach it.” She really just owned this character of a passing biracial woman who is really going to tell everyone about her blackness.

Dre killed Khalid to get revenge on Marissa, but they had also fallen out over Ni’Jah. This makes Hailey’s abusive boyfriend, and later Hailey herself, Dre’s only murders that have nothing to do with Ni’Jah.

This show is a study of the character and his unpredictability. We’ve seen the pilot. She has this sister who is in an unhealthy relationship with a man. We’ll see how it goes. Moving on to Episode 2, we’re going to see a little bit of that as well, right? So you think this story is about a black woman who defends her girlfriends and sisters at all costs. If the men get in the way, they will be shot down. Right?

We see her take down the boyfriend, but again, you’re debunking the story. You see what he’s doing to Hailey as another way to kind of subvert that narrative and keep the audience on their toes. Wait a minute, what is this show about?

Food plays an interesting role in the show. Dre eats a pie with his hands after killing Khalid and eats pretzels while a customer masturbates in front of him, among other weird moments. Where did it come from?

When you look at serial killers in history, there is always something strange about them. Dahmer worked in a chocolate factory and they are pretty sure he disposed of his body in chocolate. The Night Stalker would break into people’s homes and go through their refrigerators. We talked a lot about food. What is a funny way, a strange and grotesque way to show your relationship with someone passionate? And it can be fun. It was the food.

Dominique is such a disciplined actor, what she eats and is just so special, so she took it with great thought and energy. It feels really memorable, something that could really stick with how people talk about him as a character and his “isms”.

Dre has several strange sexual experiences throughout the show until we see him transform into Tony and settle into a long-term and relatively normal relationship with Rashida (Kiersey Clemons), who hates Ni’Jah. What were you trying to say about Dre’s sexuality?

We knew we wanted to start her as a virgin. In many horror stories, the main character, if she is a woman, is a virgin. So there’s a way to debunk it: “Oh, is this a story about a girl who loses her virginity and wakes up?” We’re building this story around her sexuality, and when she loses her virginity, that’s fine. It is what it is. But the thing that really arouses his sensuality, the thing that really brings him alive, is this act of violence.

Since this is a limited series, we see Dre go through different iterations of his character. When we get to the final, he’s the most confident he’s been. He is grounded in his own skin. And it had a lot to do with his journey as a murderer and his relationship with social media. When you meet him in episode 7, he’s not on the phone. He’s not focused on Ni’Jah. He feels like he’s in remission. The fact that he lives very confidently as Tony—grounded, authentic without any labels—is part of it. This relationship with Rashida is part of that. It’s about becoming your own self-esteem. Tony is at his most real, most human, most present, most grounded.

Chris Reel / Prime Video

But eventually he loses touch again. He kills Rashida because he didn’t like Ni’Jah before the hallucination sequence at the Ni’Jah concert. Does the story always end here?

Yeah. Because every episode, with the exception of episode 4, has a real basis for its murder. In 2018, we found a murder that happened on the outskirts of Georgia with a young woman who was brutally killed and dumped in some sort of desert, wooded area. It was a white woman, but we did our own thing. All this is based on real situations.

The ending is supposed to be a bit of a full-circle moment, as emotionally jarring and upsetting as it gets. We started here and now we’re here, but we understand why he had to make this journey to get to where he is. In the pilot, he says, “When we meet Ni’Jah, we’re driven to his house. Let’s go eat.” And episode 7 is that dinner – in his mind.

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