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As the adage says, there are no small roles, just small actors. For evidence of that, look to Jordan Peele's latest thriller, Nope. Angel Torres, the Frye's Electronics tech expert who gets involved with horse ranchers OJ and Em (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer) in the middle of the secluded desert valleys of California, ends up being much more than a mere supporting character. When it came time to audition for the part, actor Brandon Perea (The OA) made sure to show up ready to lay down a version of Torres that the director wouldn't be able to ignore. His plan worked, because Perea got the part and then his performance continued to inspire Peele to make changes to the script through the entirety of production.
In Part Two of SYFY WIRE's exclusive chat with Perea, the actor reveals the backstory he created for Torres that went way deeper than what's seen on screen, the walloping he took filming that sequence in the third act, and how his character's original fate transformed into the ending you can see in theaters today.
***Warning: There are spoilers below for Nope***
You alluded to the fact that there was more backstory for Angel Torres than what we see in the movie. Can you give us a taste of what we don't know?
I crafted the backstory that he's not really close with his family, and they kind of resent him. He dropped out of college to pursue a dream in California. And that dream is not working out. Now he's working at an electronics store, so he's got this loneliness and this need for purpose. And he finds this purpose within these people that he wants to protect. That's kind of the way that I approached it and I hope it resonates in the performance.
Angel reveals himself to not only know a lot about tech, but also about modern UFO/UFA theory. Was that literally an alien topic for you and if so, how did you cram for research?
Yeah, this is all stuff I had to learn "on the job," for sure. [Laughs.] The only way that I can relate to Angel is how obsessive he is over topics and over subjects. I'm obsessive as well, but on different subjects. He's obsessed with the aliens, the tech, and with Bitcoin. He's obsessed with video games. Me? I'm obsessed with UFC boxing, rock climbing, and acting videos. And I'm in the film realm as well. I get to the nooks and crannies of my subjects and he gets in the nooks and crannies of his. It was cool to explore in a different mindset, like "Alright, these are the subjects that I need to try to tackle on on the job." But also I attended to Jordan's writing as well. He made it very easy for me to be able to portray things honestly, just through the words and the language. He's just so collaborative in how he allows me to do what I need to do in order to get the performance to a natural place.
How else did he push you as an actor?
He would rewrite things on the day and give me new pages and new paragraphs. [Laughs.] Like with the UFO/UAP speech, that whole bit was all rewritten that day and that's one of my longest pieces of dialogue. I had the original writing all memorized. The night before, just with my partner, I was reading it. I had all these lines to memorize with complex dialogue, and then Jordan comes through with more complex dialogue. And I knew those were big pieces of storyline that were to be explained in this film.
How did that go down on the day?
Jordan just knocked on the trailer and tossed me new pages, saying, "You good with this?" I'm like, "Yeah, of course." And then door closes and I'm like, "Oh my God! What are we doing? I gotta get this going!"
Let's talk about the final act of Nope where Angel gets thrown around like a rag doll by the alien. How many days did it take to shoot that sequence?
Yeah, it was spread out over a couple of days. There's days that I'd show up to set and be like, "Alright, we're ready!" And then it's like, never mind because the sun is going down so we can't do it. And I'm like, "All right. See you guys tomorrow." [Laughs.] We did a lot of takes, for sure. We were trying to figure out what to do on the day too. Originally, the tarp flies in and makes "Jean Jacket" choke and there's an [Angel] spit out moment. But on the day, we're like, "How do we save him because what's the tarp going to do? This dude's eating everything." We grabbed barbed wire and ties [Angel] up to the barbed wire and that ended up working.
Were you actually part of doing the stunt work?
I've been utilizing my body my whole life for breakdancing, martial arts, and skating, so I was ready and willing to fall. I'm glad that they granted me the opportunity to when my face was involved in the shot. But when it wasn't, that's when the professionals go in and do the super dangerous stuff. Although, I was ready and willing, they didn't let me. They were very active in choreographing the falls for me. I know how to utilize my body well, so I can do the rolls that they taught me. But I have to give credit to the stunt team. Like, I did my own stunts, but they really assisted me in making sure I could do it properly.
Was Angel always going to make it to the end?
Originally, Angel was supposed to die. Of course, I was sad about it. But this is what happened: He was supposed to die and I was like, "Okay." And then they were like, "Never mind. Saved: Angel." And then they killed them again in another draft! And I'm like, "Gosh, damn it! I thought I did it. I thought I was able to save him." And then in the last draft, they officially had me saved and I was like, "Thank God."
Jordan was definitely in a mode of let's wreck these people. [Laughs.] And I'm like, "No, man. Don't wreck me, though." Then I talked to some of the studio heads and they were like, "There's no way we could kill Angel, man. We needed Angel!" I was like thank you guys because hopefully — and this is not like a confirmed thing and my theory only — I'm like there's no way the story's over in my head. There's no way. For how heroic everything kind of seemed at the end, I'm like there's no way they leave the heroes like this. This is just the start of something new. And that's why I really wanted to survive because I knew that Jordan was about to do some craziness and craft some new worlds. I want to be a part of it as long as I can, so hopefully that we get to do it again.
Nope is now playing exclusively in theaters.