Editor’s note: The headline of this piece has been edited to better reflect the values of The A.V. Club, as well as the content of Peele’s statement. - ED
With a $70 million opening weekend for Us, Jordan Peele is officially two for two–and in more ways than one. Both of Peele’s feature directorial efforts have been horror films starring black actors in leading roles and they’ve broken box office records upon release; one of them–Get Out–even won an Oscar. And with his Twilight Zone reboot premiering next week on CBS All Access, Peele is quickly becoming one of the most prolific and acclaimed creatives on the planet, thanks in part to his focus on telling stories with diverse casts. So, what will he do next? According to The Hollywood Reporter, Peele says he’s going to keep using his position to explore stories that aren’t led by white people.
While speaking to students at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Hollywood this week, Peele explained how his success has given him leverage in filmmaking–specifically with regards to casting black actors in leading roles. As Peele has previously stated, unlike Get Out, Us isn’t about race; it was also “very important” for him “to have a Black family at the center of a horror film.” Peele’s talk at UCB seemed to extend that particular conversation, with the filmmaker explaining that he has no intention of making movies with white actors in leading roles anytime soon. “I don’t see myself casting a white dude as the lead in my movie,” Peele said. “Not that I don’t like white dudes, but I’ve seen that movie.”
And it’s true: We’ve all seen that movie. Thousands of times. That’s part of what makes Peele’s filmmaking and his perspective so vital and fantastic, especially in Us, where the family’s race isn’t necessarily important to the story or understanding the film’s themes. Peele went on to acknowledge that he’s currently in a position of privilege in Hollywood, and one that he’s using to his advantage: “The way I look at it, I get to cast black people in my movies. I feel fortunate to be in this position where I can say to Universal, ‘I want to make a $20 million horror movie with a black family.’ And they say yes.”
Up next for Peele is the aforementioned Twilight Zone reboot, which he hosts and executive produces, and features a diverse cast including Kumail Nanjiani, John Cho, Steven Yeun, DeWanda Wise, and Jessica Williams. Peele’s Monkeypaw productions banner is also behind the upcoming remake of Candyman from director Nia DaCosta, starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Teyonah Parris.