When you take a look at Brandon Perea, he could easily be that skater kid in high school that was cool enough to chill with the popular kids but also quirky enough to hang with the art kids. If anything part of that hypothetical first impression for the Nope actor is correct — he is a cool skater kid. In fact, it was roller skating that was Perea’s foray into performing and acting.
His father played a huge part of Perea’s when it came to entertainment. In addition to sneaking him into movies, his father, who was a breakdancer, taught him some moves. On top of that, Perea said that he “grew up on wheels” as his mom put him in roller skates at an early age so that he can learn balance. Now, Perea has combined the two and break dances on skates with the Honor Roll Skate Crew. All this combined with seeing kids his age performing on the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon as well as Apple and Go-gurt commercials, made him want to be a performer.
After using his talents of jam skating and appearing on America’s Got Talent with his crew and being featured in movies like Dance Camp, he went on to star in Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij’s Netflix sci-fi drama The OA as “French” the mysterious overachiever with the heart of gold. Now, Perea has a different kind of sci-fi journey with Jordan Peele’s highly anticipated maybe-it’s-an-alien-movie-maybe-it’s-not feature Nope, which hits theaters on July 22.
True to Peele form, details for Nope have been kept under wraps. Ever since July 22, 2021 when Peele and his Monkeypaw conspirators did an Instagram drop an image of a key art of a cloud and no explanation, the masses have been trying to unpack what the hell this movie is about.
The first trailer dropped in February and then others followed and they left us little to know information about this movie — and maybe that’s a good thing in a time when everyone is spoiling something for everyone. For Perea, this was more than just the third studio movie from the Oscar-winning game changing director of Get Out that everyone has been waiting for. It was an opportunity for him to star in a movie from the Oscar-winning game changing director of Get Out.
Perea tells DIASPORA that when he received the email about the opportunity to audition for Peele, his heart dropped because he was nervous — so nervous that he was trying to figure out a way out of auditioning because his “whole life’s about to be consumed over a couple pages of lines”.
As soon as he saw it was an “Untitled Jordan Peele Project”, he immediately said “I have to crush this.”
“I didn’t work on anything super substantial in a little while because it was the pandemic,”said Perea. “I was just like, ‘Wow. This is the biggest opportunity I’ve ever received in my career — 10 years in and this is the biggest audition I’ve ever received’.”
Despite nerves, Perea sent a taped interview — but he wanted to put his best put forward and swing for the fences with his performance of the character “Arty” — which would later become “Angel Torres”. Perea explained that the character, as it is now, was written as a retail store employee and seemed a little too quirky.
“I was like, ‘I don’t know if Jordan would do this,'” Perea said of reading the pages for the first audition. He went on to say Peele is usually grounded with his characters but then Perea wanted to see what he can do to relate to this character and bring him to a real grounded place where he could see this character in real life.
Perea worked with his friend to tinker with this character a bit and making him the kind of employee who is clearly there for a paycheck. He knows what he is doing and he does it well but is definitely in need of challenge that are more suitable for his talents.
Thus, Angel was born. Well, actually, it was born after he had a callback. “First, I’m excited…and then I’m also like, ‘Oh. I got to do it? Oh. Scary. All right. I got to do it’,” laughed Perea. For the callback he had a new scene in for the audition and it was clear that this project was some sort of horror because it required him to be scared.
“I was like, ‘what the hell is Peele making?!'”, Perea said. “I didn’t know if these were dummy sides or not at the time.” Turns out they were — and it turns out the Peele called him the next day for a Zoom improv session. However, when Perea signed on to the Zoom, Peele asked him if he was ready to read the scenes.
“I was like, ‘the scenes? I was told this was an improv session’,” said Perea. He said that he was able to do them and Peele responded, “Yeah, man. The character that I wrote is far different than what you brought to the table.” Peele told Perea that he needed to see this version of the character play in different ways because in order for Peele to put the character Perea built into the movie, he would have to rewrite the entire script. As soon as Perea heard this he thought “Damn. I’m about to not get this job” — but it was the exact opposite. Peele rewrote the script because of what Perea brought to the character of Angel (then Arty).
“I think [Peele] started seeing while we were shooting how much I can really deliver,” said Perea. “He started trusting me a lot where he would start adding more scenes and dialogue for me as we were shooting. I feel very lucky and privileged that Jordan gave me the opportunity and trusted me, because there’s only so much that you can receive from an audition. So I’m glad that he trusted me to be able to compose myself when it comes to sitting across Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, and Michael Wincott, you know? That’s a lot.”
In the trailers and footage of Nope that have been gradually unfurling since July 22, 2021, we have gotten somewhat of a sense of Perea’s Angel. Early Nope reactions have been praising Perea’s performance, calling him the breakout star of the film and comparing him to Lil Rel Howery’s character in Get Out. But still, we don’t know much about Angel. We know he works at the now defunct electronics mecca of Fry’s; he’s kind of jaded; he gives nerdy tech genius stoner energy; and seems like he’s into conspiracy theory-esque alien stuff — something Perea is kind of on board with.
“I think the way that I can relate to Angel is obsessive research,” said Perea. “I do have an obsessive research er within me but it’s different topics. He’s into the aliens, heavy metal music, and all that. He’s just listening to podcasts while he’s watching Ancient Aliens on History Channel. I have that relation in the sense where I’m doing a million things at once but I’m absorbing different pieces and diving into different things.”
Perea said he does deep dive, obsessive researching with so many topics including but not limited to acting, mixed martial arts, and rock climbing. “I get my obsessive getting into the nooks and crannies — I’m trying to find every detail and I have that relation with Angel,” said Perea. “Am I into aliens? Yeah. But am I going to go hunt them? Nope.”
Perea joins a cinematic universe that Peele has created under his Monkeypaw production banner. It’s a universe that blends his love for cinema and storytelling with creating an inclusive space for intentionally exploited communities to thrive, centering themselves in narratives that historically focuses on the dominant white culture. In addition to Peele, Perea’s Nope co-stars have been trailblazers when it comes to their respective communities, creating stories that move that diversity needle everyone is talking about. As someone from Puerto Rican and Filipino descent, Perea recognizes the platform he has and hope that his position can help craft more opportunities for those that share his heritage. He gives plenty of flowers to Peele for bolstering voices that aren’t often seen or heard.
“Jordan’s the one who’s breaking barriers to make sure that we have diverse actors in these roles — and what’s great too about his writing is that it’s not just hammering someone’s ethnicity,” Perea points out. “It’s like, “we’re just humans.”
He continued, “It’s just so funny that a lot of films and stories feel like they have to just rip directly from the country. It’s like, ‘Do you all recognize how diverse America is?’ Jordan recognizes that and I’m glad that he’s doing this. Usually, with these big spectacle films, people only create what they can relate to. Jordan can relate to a lot of things. So now he’s crafted a big spectacle movie where he’s like, ‘Okay. Let me bring some diverse actors in this film and that are tackling an issue that doesn’t have to just do with their race’…I love that about this picture.”
“And to see just all of us on screen handling a problem that doesn’t have to deal with what color our skin is, it’s incredible. I’m glad that Jordan’s changing the game in that sense and I hope it spearheads for more opportunities like that for us.”
Watch Brandon Perea answer some random questions below.