Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Actors Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Teyonah Parris Talk ‘Candyman’ Legacy and ‘The Fly’ Influence

Last year, Candyman director Nia DaCosta revealed in a discussion at the Nightstream Film Festival that she encouraged her cast and crew to watch David Cronenberg’s The Fly for its body horror elements. Body horror would play a significant role, she said, in her spiritual sequel. Bloody Disgusting recently participated in a press conference with Candyman stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Teyonah Parris to learn more about their characters, and to see if The Fly influenced their performances as well.

More specifically, I wanted to know if The Fly informed the romance between Abdul-Mateen II’s Anthony McCoy and Parris’ Brianna Cartwright. Abdul-Mateen II answered that it only influenced his character arc, not the love story: “The Fly, that was one of the ones that she recommended to me as well as Rosemary’s Baby. In terms of The Fly, that was one that I watched and paid attention to the physical and psychological deterioration of that character. But in terms of the relationship between the two of us, that was something that I connected to after meeting Teyonah. And just really having an opportunity to tell a story of a young successful black couple with very high aspirations and a real desire to build a life together. They were at the start of something so Anthony was a person who was very much in love with his relationship but also in love with the possibility of being an artist. As he was striving to grow both of those things, fate and the history of Candyman and Cabrini, the traumas of those locations eventually pulled him away from the things he loved the most.

“So there was plenty to fight for in this story, including especially the relationship between the two.”

(from left) Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris) and Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) in Candyman, directed by Nia DaCosta.

Parris expanded on her character’s ambitions, “What I loved about Briana when I talked to Nia and read the script was that she is very ambitious, and she’s in a space that isn’t typically occupied by people of color, particularly women of color.” Parris also shares why now is the right time to revisit Candyman’s legacy, “The story behind Candyman is one that’s repeated and repeated in generations and generations and still happening. I mean, we’re 30 years later from the original, and unfortunately, it’s still quite relevant and quite appropriate to shed light on this issue, which is the way that we’ve re-imagined it in our telling the story.”

Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, right) reaches toward a reflection of Candyman in Candyman, directed by Nia DaCosta.

The original Candyman, there was a real fear, a real specific fear, and even imagining what if Candyman were real. After leaving this movie, that question has a completely different meaning and completely different implications on what if Candyman were real. I think the implications behind that now are more about agency and more about taking back a narrative. Do you know what I mean? And the power that can come from claiming that type of authority over your history, which I think is going to be a very unexpected and exciting part of the conversation of this film,” Abdul-Mateen II adds.

Both actors agree that they’d never dare summon Candyman. Not even the bravado of youth could convince Parris. She tells us, “Although as a child, I did attempt to do that with my brothers. You lock yourself in the bathroom; we never got to five. You start hitting each other and scrambling to get out because you don’t want it.”

Say his name if you dare when Candyman arrives in theaters on August 27, 2021.


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