The plot line for an episode of Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone, a revival of the 1959 TV series of the same name, reads more like a retelling of a modern day #MeToo account than a psychological thriller. Annie, played by Taissa Farmiga, is just starting out at her new job and has difficulty saying no. That includes any unreasonable request by her boss, which might explain why she says yes to a date with a co-worker named Dylan (Luke Kirby) who invites her over to watch the meteor shower that night. After some light banter and examining a downed meteor outside, Annie seems taken by Dylan and receptive to his advances—at least until he gets too aggressive that is. After some attempted coercion (Dylan even grabs Annie’s arm at one point), she storms out. The next day, she discovers that she’ll be working directly for Dylan for the foreseeable future.
As a reinterpretation of Rod Serling’s original cult classic, Peele’s Twilight Zone incorporates modern themes and supernatural horror with a message in mind. The aforementioned episode, titled “Not All Men” in a tongue-in-cheek riff on the male response to the #YesAllWomen hashtag, explores toxic masculinity through the premise of science fiction—Annie and her sister Martha (played by Rhea Seehorn) come up against a horde of men after a meteor shower turns them into violent monsters.
Farmiga herself is no stranger to horror. The American Horror Story alum cycled through three seasons of Ryan Murphy’s anthology series and battled against a demon as Sister Irene in the 2016 Conjuring spin-off The Nun. Farmiga, though, says that Twilight Zone was different from her previous projects for two principal reasons: Peele and the social commentary of the series. “I love the idea of having a conversation starter and I think there’s no one better than Jordan Peele,” she tells CR. “Seeing the offer with [his] name next to it, I was like ‘Oh, this isn’t going to be the usual thing. This is going to be done in a way that creates a spark.'” Here, CR caught up with Farmiga about telling stories of consent during the #MeToo reckoning, holding people more accountable, and what it’s like having her sister in the same industry.
Have you seen the original Twilight Zone series?
“I had seen a few Twilight Zone episodes growing up. It’s funny because if you look at the history of projects that I’ve been part of, the genre seems to be in my wheelhouse. It’s not something I particularly like watching. I don’t like being creeped out. I don’t like being put in a situation where I have to really think about my technological fears or my morality issues.”
In addition to the date night scene, sister relationships are a big part of the episode. Has it been helpful to have Vera in the same industry as you?
“For sure. I’m very lucky that I have someone who has been through almost every single experience that I’ve had in my career. She’s had bad auditions, she’s had good auditions, she’s had weird meetings, she’s had weird filming days, and I have someone who I can call and say ‘Hey, I had a shitty day. This happened.’ And she would say you know what, I know exactly what you’re feeling. Sometimes that’s all you need is for someone to be like I understand what you’re feeling, and it works both ways. It’s nice to be able to lean on her.”
How did you go about filming the date night scene?
“We didn’t film that right away even though the scene comes up early in the episode. We filmed it the middle of the second week. It was a big pivotal scene that touches on the grey area of consent. I personally have not been in the situation as a severe as that, but I was just nervous for it. Luke is so great, the director Christina is wonderful, and the whole situation was comfortable, but the idea of putting yourself in a place where you can’t say no is such a weird feeling. I felt so uneasy but you’re making a choice to be there so you have to smile. I think I felt very similar to Annie in that regard.”
What about this episode resonated with you?
“In a broad sense, I think people give other people permission to act and indecently. At the end of the day, we are responsible for our own actions, but we are also responsible for putting our foot down and saying no, this behavior is unacceptable, without caring who is at the other end of it. There’s such a double standard for so many different groups of people. It’s so hard to pick one. I am really interested in the conversation that this episode sparks about gender norms and society’s take on what a man should be and how it values physical strength separate from emotional strength. There are too many conversations to be had right now.”
Do you think we’re beginning to hold each other more accountable?
“This is going to be a conversation for a longlong time. I see it in my friends, I see it in the people I interact with, I see people trying to be more aware and more considerate of other people. I’m one person and I can’t speak for others’ perspectives. I was closing on my first house the other day and had to move the contractor to a different day. He looked like what you’d expect a contractor to look like and he was so cordial like ‘Yes anytime you want to meet.’ It sucks that I was surprised by that response. Hopefully, it becomes more normal that you don’t expect the worst of people.”
What did you want people to take away from “Not All Men”?
“I think toxic masculinity is a talked-about subject in this day and age. It’s kind of a triggering phrase, but I want people to talk about society’s idea of what gender norms are. Society says that men and women have to act in specific ways and I completely disagree. Nobody can tell you how to be a woman and nobody can tell you how to be a man. There aren’t natural animalistic traits you have to have. Physical power is so revered, even in the phrase, ‘Oh just man up.’ I want to talk about that more. I’m guilty of even using [it], but that contributes to the negative conversation we don’t want to have. I want people to realize it’s something we have to talk about and we have to hold people accountable.”
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