Watch: The cast of The Strays talk to Yahoo about representation
Ashley Madekwe, one of the stars of new Netflix thriller The Strays, says not enough movies are being told from a Black perspective.
Black British horror movies are few and far between — but Netflix is trying to change that. In 2020, the streamer released the excellent His House, starring Sope Dirisu and Wunmi Mosaku, and next comes The Strays, a twisty thriller that’s split into multiple distinct segments, each one telling a shared story but from a different character’s perspective.
Madekwe – previously BAFTA nominated for her supporting role in 2019’s County Lines – plays Neve, a woman who abandons a previous life and becomes the headmaster of a private school. It’s a complicated role – and a rare one, the actor says.
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“Unfortunately, I think leading roles are still not as prevalent [for Black actors] as perhaps I would like them to be,” she tells Yahoo UK.
“That's just because I think sometimes we're not telling stories from a Black perspective. There are a lot more Black characters in stories, but not always are the stories told from a Black perspective, or from any ethnicities perspective.”
The problem, Madekwe says, starts behind the camera. “There has been a push to put more people of colour in front of the camera,” she says. “But really, it's going to have to start from behind, who's getting the chance to tell the stories.”
Written by actor and director Nathaniel Martello-White, The Strays takes inspiration from a mixture of sources, including Michael Haneke’s Funny Games and Jordan Peel’s Get Out.
Madekwe’s character Neve was informed by the filmmaker’s own struggles with coming from a working-class background but having to blend into middle-class situations. For Madekwe, who went to the same drama school as Martello-White, she saw similarities between Neve and herself.
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“I definitely understand code switching and moving between worlds,” she says. “I think people of colour everywhere can relate to that. There's how you behave at home, your family, and how you speak on the telephone to someone who you think is important.”
However, one thing Neve does that’s not like her creators is reject her own heritage. “I think [she’s] going to be very polarising,” Madekwe says. “We're prouder than ever of being people of colour and what it means to us to know our history and our heritage. And so to see somebody reject that, I think it will anger some people.”
Jorden Myrie, who appeared in the BBC series Mood, plays Neve’s son and the movie’s antagonist. He warns: don’t expect this to be a straight story.
“You're just not prepared,” he says. “You're thinking how is this all gonna get wrapped up? What's the ending going to be?
"And you finally get to and you're like, ‘Oh, I did not see that coming!”
The Strays is streaming on Netflix now. Watch a trailer below.