Janelle Monáe was fashionably late as she strolled onstage at the BFI Southbank, where she headlined the London Film Festival’s final major keynote ‘screen talk’ Friday afternoon.
During the talk, Monáe dug into some of the biggest successes of her career. She also shared some of her future goals, including her desire to expand her on-screen roles, telling the festival audience that she hopes to shape her acting career around that of Johnny Depp.
“When I think about careers, this person as an actor, his life an as an actor only, Johnny Depp has a very vast career,” she told the festival audience. There was a slight grunt amongst the audience around the auditorium as Monáe dropped Depp’s name, but she continued to say that she has been inspired by the thematic range of Depp’s on-screen characters.
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“The amount of roles: Willy Wonka to Sweeny Todd to all of the dramatic roles,” she said. “Whatever the Janelle Monae version of that is. Maybe something even better, but I want to be able to do those sorts of like transformative characters that people are dressing up as for Halloween. Something grounded but embedded in the hearts and minds of children forever.”
Elsewhere during the keynote, Monáe spoke at length about her artistic practice, which straddles music and acting. Monáe’s first onscreen role was Barry Jenkins’s 2016 best picture winner, Moonlight, a project she said she fell in love with after reading the script.
“I remember being on a flight before I skyped with Barry. I had a blanket over my body, and I was reading it on my iPad and I was just in tears,” she said of the screenplay.
Monáe has since starred in films like Hidden Figures and Harriet. On the music side, she has released three studio albums and was nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy in 2019 for Dirty Computer.
“I’ve always had a world-building mind,” she said of her diverse practice. “I never saw my music career as something that should limit this. David Bowie did these things, so why can’t I do these things.”
Next up, Monáe stars in Rian Johnson’s highly anticipated follow-up Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, which closes LFF. Monáe said she accepted a role in the sequel before she read the script because she was a fan of Johnson’s third feature film Looper, starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
“That film is a film I wish I’d written, wish I’d starred in, all the above,” she said of Looper.
At the tail end of the keynote, Monáe was asked if she would ever add directing to her list of artistic trades and her answer was definitive.
“Yes, absolutely. I want it to be something I write, but I’m super open if its something I can co-write or collaborate with someone on. I know that I’m supposed to direct,” Monáe told the audience.
“I’m trying to create a world where that happens.”
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