Janelle Monae Talks About Her Early Acting Inspirations (And Mentions Another Quirky Genius)

On Variety chain of awards Janelle Monáe’s podcast was asked what performances inspired her to get into acting. The singer responded with several responses, including musician Lauryn Hill in the 1993 film Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. “I thought, ‘Oh, this is warm. This relationship. This voice,” Monet recalls. “You know, I think that made me say that I don’t have to choose. I can act. I can sing. I don’t need to create a life that limits me and doesn’t give me a sense of freedom.”


Monáe also mentioned Gene Wilder’s whimsical portrayal of Willy Wonka in the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, noting how expressive the performer’s eyes were. In a surprising jump, the actor also shouted out the villain Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street. “I think I was like, ‘Who the hell is Robert England? What does he look like? What’s happening?” – she said.

This is a varied range of influences, but these actors are not Monet’s only sources of inspiration. In fact, Wilder isn’t even the only Wonka to make the list, as the actress also expressed her admiration for Johnny Depp’s performance. “I want to be able to create the kind of transformative characters that people dress up for Halloween,” Monae said during the 2022 London Film Festival (via Term). “Something grounded yet forever etched in the hearts and minds of children.”


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