Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
SYFY WIRE focus features

What Is Nicole Byer's Role in The American Society of Magical Negroes?

Comedian Nicole Byer explains how she was cast as a fabulous secret society leader in The American Society of Magical Negroes.

By Tara Bennett
Nicole Byer smiles in a denim jacket.

Actress and comedian Nicole Byer is a multimedia superstar. If she's not touring as a standup, then she's podcasting, hosting shows like Nailed It!, co-starring in television comedies like Grand Crew, or appearing in films like Focus Feature's The American Society of Magical Negroes. The feature directing debut of Kobi Libii, Magical Negroes features a stacked cast of actors and comedians including Justice Smith (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), David Alan Grier and Byer. 

The film is a mashup of several genres, from satire to rom com, with some magical realism fueling the whole piece. Byer plays the leader of the secret group known as the American Society of Magical Negroes which recruits specialized Black candidates who use their abilities to diffuse problematic white people from becoming bigger problems to their people.

RELATED: Dev Patel's Monkey Man Premieres at SXSW to Standing Ovation - What Critics Are Saying: "Forget John Wick"

The Society is played as satire, but it allows Libii and the cast, like Byer, to explore the American media tropes propagated across time that feature Black characters entirely in service of white characters wants and needs. As DeDe, Byer assigns her recruits to go forth into the U.S. and handle a client, even if it takes a lot out of the person.

Who is DeDe on The American Society of Magical Negros?

Dede (Nicole Byer) floats in a snazzy outfit The American Society of Magical Negroes (2024)

DeDe is the ultimate authority at the American Society of Magical Negroes, though her background remains a mystery in the film. When she makes appearances to address her subjects or welcome new recruits, she dresses fabulously, can levitate and seems to be a mostly benevolent leader. The Society bears witness her temper when any of her subjects don't adhere to the rules of the Society. Anyone who makes selfish decisions instead of doing what's best for the majority makes DeDe mad

What tempted Byer to get interested in a first-time director project?

Nicole Byer

As an in-demand entertainer, Byer's calendar is often full. But when the script for The American Society of Magical Negroes came to her, she told SYFY WIRE that she had to give it a read from the title alone. 

"The title is just so polarizing that I was like, 'Oh, I have to read this,'" she emphasized. "Then I read it and I was like, 'Oh, this is so unique.' I mean, a love story, you've seen that. And you've seen a love triangle. But the way Kobe wrote this and the way he was telling the story, that I hadn't seen before. And I said, 'OK, let's do this.'"

RELATED: How Jordan Peele's UFO thriller Nope Drew From '80s Classics Like The Goonies & Gremlins

Because the film incorporates a lot of different tones, Byer said she immediately asked Libii how he wanted her to navigate that as DeDe. 

"He was like, 'It's pretty grounded. But you are a powerful person.' And I was like, 'Alright, got it.' Then he really trusted me to bring the character I figured out to life."

Since DeDe comes across as an omnipotent boss who values the powers the Society provides her as their leader, Byer said she first worked on DeDe's voice.

"I pitched her down a little bit. She speaks in a way where she elongates different words which is just like a variation of how I speak," she acknowledged with a smile. "I really tried to figure out what her speech patterns were and how she used her body, which made ADR very difficult because I had to match the cadence and the way I pitched down my voice in a way that I was like, 'Well, that has left my body already,'" she joked. "But I felt really trusted."

This is not Byer's first flying rodeo

Nicole Byer smiles in a denim jacket.

Asked if DeDe's ability to rise and float was a wire work first for the actress, Byer snorted an emphatic: "Um, no."

"Ironically enough, it's not the first time I've been suspended in the air," she confessed. "One of the first jobs I got, I played a fairy in a Nestle commercial overseas. They flew me to Romania. And this Romanian stuntman said, "We found the biggest man in our village. He's still not as big as you, but we put him in the harness and he didn't fall!" I was like, 'Oh, OK, so that's the standard?' Then they hoisted me in the air and then decided what they wanted me to do.

"It was awful," she laughed. "But also... they paid me $5,000 and it was a buyout. So I paid my rent for a couple of months!"

The American Society of Magical Negroes is exclusively in theaters as of March 14. Buy tickets.