1428 Elm caught up with Lesley-Ann Brandt and Nathaniel Logan McIntyre, who star in the new Shudder exclusive film Horror Noire, a follow-up to the 2019 documentary of the same name. The documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror featured tons of prolific Black filmmakers, authors, artists, writers, actors, and experts in the field to discuss how Black creators have impacted the genre over the years. The latest film is an anthology that features six new tales of horror to showcase Black storytellers.
The following article contains MILD SPOILERS for the Shudder exclusive film Horror Noire.
We were lucky enough to talk to Lesley-Ann and Nathaniel about their roles in the film. The pair star opposite each other in the opening segment, “The Lake,” written by Tananarive Due and her husband/collaborator Steven Barnes.
Horror Noire interview with stars Lesley-Ann Brandt and Nathaniel Logan McIntyre
1428 ELM: Can you guys tell me how you got involved with Horror Noire?
LESLEY-ANN BRANDT: My really good friend Shelby Stone, who is an executive producer on this, called me, and she said, I have this role, I really want you to do it, take a read. I did, and I really liked how twisted the character was and getting to explore a woman that has some really dark demons and obviously having her story told through the genre of horror I found really interesting so I was more than happy to join.
NATHANIEL LOGAN MCINTYRE: I just auditioned. Reading the sides, I found the relationship between my character and Miss Le Fleur to be quite interesting, so I was already drawn to their relationship, their dynamic. I got the callback, got the role, super excited and also to be a part of a Black horror film was really exciting for me as well.
1428 ELM: Nathaniel, this is one of your big horror roles, what was that experience like for you? And do you want to do more in this genre?
NATHANIEL: Yeah, I think it’s really interesting. I think there are so many routes you can take with horror. The genre of horror can really be anything. There can really be a mixture of genres put into horror. I think the stories that can be told throughout the genre are endless, so I would totally be down to be part of anything horror again. Maybe be a monster this time. Who knows?
1428 ELM: Part of the appeal of Horror Noire is that it does highlight the talents of Black filmmakers, artists, writers in this genre. Are there any that have been really influential to you guys, either in horror or in general?
LESLEY-ANN: I feel like this is my first horror, too.
1428 ELM: I didn’t know if Lucifer counted!
LESLEY-ANN: I don’t think so. I think we’re more of a cop show with some supernatural elements, celestial elements, I should say. But I don’t think it counts as horror, per se.
Jordan Peele has done such a wonderful job of using genre, to comment on some really important issues. He hasn’t really done horror I don’t think, but Barry Jenkins is a filmmaker I would love to work with. Certainly, Ava Duvernay, she dips into that supernatural world with like A Wrinkle in Time and she has Naomi, the comic book show, coming out soon with Warner Brothers.
I think that the gift of what this film has done is that it gets to showcase some known talent and then some unknown talent as well and give them a really wonderful platform to tell these stories in a way that—I’ve said this before in other interviews—explores real themes of racism within in America but it’s not as confrontational for some people since it’s told through the genre of horror.
I think that’s the gift of, even a show like Lucifer, we explore things, but it doesn’t seem like we’re making such a huge point, it’s just in there, and I feel that this film will certainly make people think a little bit deeper about some of the themes that are explored.
NATHANIEL: Jordan Peele, if he keeps going on that road, that would be someone I would love to work with. [Get Out and Us] are amazing, those are probably my favorite horror movies out. I feel like those stories, the twists on the stories are unbelievable. I love a good story with a great twist, and those two definitely showcase a great twist. Jordan Peele is on my radar for sure.
1428 ELM: The segment you guys did, “The Lake,” is based on a short story by Tananarive Due, who is also considered a horror icon. She’s done some amazing novels and teaches Black horror as well, so what was your reaction to reading the script she did with her husband Steven Barnes and knowing it was their story you were bringing to life?
LESLEY-ANN: It was a huge honor knowing what a prolific force she is within Black horror, and I was able to bring that story to light and filter it through my instrument and my take on it. It really also made me think, like wow, this is a really twisted story, but such huge metaphors. This idea of like, what makes people do really horrible things, right?
What makes a teacher want to seduce a child, essentially? What is it about this woman that the lake speaks to her? We explore this idea that the lake only speaks to certain people, but what is it about that darkness in his? Do you have empathy for it, do you judge it? All of these things started going through my mind, so I was very excited to formally work with her material.
NATHANIEL: I’m not gonna lie, I wasn’t too fond of her work or anything she’s done in the past, but you know after getting the role and looking more into and things like that, I saw—I don’t know how many novels she has, but it’s crazy—and I would love to get one of those novels and actually invest my time and read them because I’m sure it’s beautiful work because of what I’ve experienced with her script. I loved her script. When I first read it, I thought it was really interesting, and like Miss Lesley-Ann was saying, there is a lot of hidden messages within the writing, the metaphors, the irony, all of that is great writing.
1428 ELM: Lesley-Ann, you’ve talked about how much you love singing in the past, and I know you’ve done it on Lucifer, but when you do it in Horror Noire, it has much more sinister motivation behind it. What was that like for you?
LESLEY-ANN: My friend Shelby found this composer, a Black female composer, EmmoLei Sankofa, and she had written this song, and I think it was hers and the director’s idea to explore what the calling of the lake would be to her. I feel like music is such, especially in horror, it’s such a character. It’s like the other character in horror. Sound, I should say. I was really excited, pleasantly surprised actually, that I would get to do a little number.
1428 ELM: To wrap up, I feel like I need to ask what your experience was like working together on this film.
NATHANIEL: I remember first meeting Lesley-Ann. She was super nice, a really great person. I was really excited to dive in and get started and embody our characters in the scene and everything. When we first started, I don’t know, it kind of felt unspoken, but felt natural at the same time.
NATHANIEL: Yeah, the chemistry. She embodied her character to the fullest, I feel like I embodied mine to the fullest, and when it came together, it felt natural.
LESLEY-ANN: I had a really fun time. I don’t know if I can consider you a child, Nathaniel, But I’ve worked with child actors before, or people who have been in the business since they were children and sometimes kids are really affected by the business and what I mean is they’re “on” all the time and Nathaniel is just very chill. He’s very much himself. He was talking to me about college, talking about school and his friends, girlfriend—Oh, I’m putting you blast now. [Laughs] Sorry!
LESLEY-ANN: I have a younger brother, so in a weirdly twisted way, it kind of felt like that relationship off-set, like off-camera. On-camera, it’s a different thing, obviously. But yeah, what’s not to love? He was Simba on Broadway, come on!
NATHANIEL: That is true, that is true.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.