The Blackening Round Table

The Blackening Round Table

Drawing of a cabin in the woods on a purple background.

“Who is this talented cutie-pie on my screen?”

A roundtable with the brilliance behind The Blackening

Curious about your next favourite horror movie? We chatted with The Blackening writer Tracy Oliver, writer-actor Dewayne Perkins, and actors Antoinette Robinson, Grace Byers, Sinqua Walls, and X Mayo to get all the behind-the-scenes details on Tim Story’s latest horror-satire.

What is one moment from the shooting of The Blackening that made everyone on set laugh?

Antoinette: There were so very many memorable moments shooting The Blackening that made the entire set erupt with laughter. My castmates were so great at improv that it was a constant battle to not break character and ruin an amazing take. The chemistry was undeniable from day one. If I had to say, I think the instance that I broke a prop on the first take, that was definitely a moment! I may have been a little overzealous. When you see the movie, you’ll know exactly what moment.

Tracy: When the cast was shooting the scene where everyone has to vote on who’s “the blackest,” Jermaine Fowler improvised an “all lives matter” line on the way out and it was just so funny that I remember the cast cracking up, and all of us in video village howling with laughter too. His performance as Clifton was always full of surprises and hilarious improvisations that you didn’t know were coming.

As a kid, could you have predicted that one day you’d be working on a film like The Blackening?

Dewayne: Absolutely not. When I was a kid, gay Black men were either not in media at all or used as the butt of jokes. I also had a pretty debilitating speech impediment that I needed decades of speech therapy for. I truly thought doing something like this was impossible. So you can imagine my sheer excitement at what I’ve actually been able to achieve. I’m living a literal dream.

Grace: Not even close. I grew up in the Cayman Islands during a time when doing something like this was akin to becoming an astronaut. I didn’t even allow myself to imagine it. It wasn’t until I came to America for college that the idea of becoming a working actor felt possible. Years later, the world has shifted greatly. Right before shooting The Blackening, I was blessed to be able to shoot a film back home in Grand Cayman where the film industry is now starting to develop. I look back on this as a true full-circle moment.

Without giving anything away, what moment from this film will stick with audiences the longest?

Dewayne: I think any moment I’m in because the audience will be thinking, who is this talented cutie-pie on my screen that should be in way more movies and TV shows!

Tracy: What I personally love so much about it is how unapologetically Black and culturally specific it is. There are quite a few memorable scenes, but if I had to pick, I’d say it’s the scene where everyone has to play a Black trivia game in order to stay alive. It’s hilarious and so silly.

TIFF’s Every Story initiative is all about making sure that more voices are heard, and Tim Story has spoken to how much he valued having input from the cast while filming. How big a difference does it make to work with a cast and crew who aim to collaborate at every step?

X Mayo: It makes a huge difference in working with a cast and crew that’s collaborative. We were able to get the best possible take in every scene because everyone was encouraged to pitch. Tim does an amazing job of setting a synergistic atmosphere, and I think it’s important for him as the head to do that so that the rest of production will follow suit.

Antoinette: It truly makes all the difference. Having a director like Tim Story that understands the power and value of collaborating helps foster an environment where artists can truly “play” and that brings about a different level of freedom. Freedom that I wish every actor could experience on set. Also, I’m so grateful there was so much diversity on set. So many unique voices truly enriched the experience and as a result the art. I loved every moment of it.

What was it like getting the call that you had the chance to be involved in creating The Blackening?

Dewayne: It was wild because I had just watched Girl’s Trip in theatres with 3peat, the comedy collective I’m a part of that was the cast of the original The Blackening Comedy Central sketch. We had a weekly running improv show at IO in Chicago and the owner reached out to us and said Tracy Oliver watched the sketch and was obsessed with it and wanted to talk to the writer, which was me. I jumped on a call with her and she very casually was like, “Hey I think this could be a movie, we should make it.” And I blacked out from excitement and a couple years later, here we are!

Sinqua: I was excited at the opportunity to work with creatives that I truly appreciate and admire. From Tim Story, Dewayne Perkins, Tracy Oliver, Brian Dobbins. I was delighted to grow and learn from them. The icing on the cake was getting to work with all my cast mates who many are peers and I've known for a time, but hadn't worked with. So to do that was a gift.

What is your favorite horror movie (other than The Blackening)?

Sinqua: Other than The Blackening, I’d say IT, Sleepaway Camp, and Tales from the Hood.

X Mayo: Set It Off. Any movie where Queen Latifah’s character dies is the most horrific thing you can experience.

Make sure to grab your tickets to The Blackening, and check out TIFF’s Every Story fund, which supports filmmakers and audiences dedicated to telling more stories on screen — just like this one.