ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke to Spider star Jurnee Smollett on her role in the upcoming Netflix movie, which releases June 17 on the streamer. Smollett discussed the film’s absurd moments, such as being afraid of a stapler, her chemistry with Miles Teller, and more.
“In a state-of-the-art prison run by genius visionary Steve Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth), inmates wear a surgically attached device that injects doses of mind-altering drugs in exchange for a reduced sentence,” reads the synopsis. “There are no bars, no cells, no orange overalls. In Spiderhead, imprisoned volunteers can be themselves. While they are not. Sometimes they are the best version. Need to brighten up? That’s what drugs are for. Finding no words? There is a cure for this too. But when two subjects, Jeff (Miles Teller) and Lizzie (Jurnee Smollett), form a bond, their path to redemption becomes more tortuous as Abnesti’s experiments begin to push the boundaries of free will completely.”
Tyler Treese: What I really liked about the movie was that it was very dark and it had some dramatic moments, but it also had real comedy and he enjoyed the absurdity. What about the script that captivated you and inspired this project?
Jurney SmollettA: Well, I think the level of absurdity it leans on is one of the things that immediately caught my attention. Then when I got into it, it reminded me…between the script and the story from The New Yorker…I thought a lot about the Milgram experiment and how someone in power can get another person to harm a third person. . And it has always been with me and bothered me. I think with Lizzy, you know, one of the things that intrigued me is that although this Spider Head story is like this sublime, interesting and very suggestive genre thing, it has a subplot about these unfortunate lovers.
In essence, this is Lizzie’s counterpart in the digitized world, and her presence and the bond that Jeff and she create really represent what threatens the system the most. I am a romantic at heart. So this idea that love and unconditional love, redemption and self-forgiveness can be something that is actually more powerful than synthetic power. I mean, this idea touched me. And then I met with Joseph Kosinski, our director, and I thought, “Oh, I have to work with this guy.”
There are some really great moments in the movie between you and Miles Teller. These are two very traumatized people who are starting to open up again. What went into that image there?
Miles is a great stage partner and every take is unique. I really appreciate just keeping that spontaneity, that energy. But I think it was just about how to act and try to find the truth about these characters who both made mistakes in their past. And yet both are in a situation where society has armed the guilt and shame they feel because of these mistakes, and it has been directed against them.
That bond they share when they’re seen through shame… It’s very beautiful because they’re looking for that unconditional love that you have for someone when you say, “Hey, that’s who I am. These are my scars. These are my wounds.” And when that person sees you, all of you, and still chooses you… Oh, it’s so beautiful.
It sounds ridiculous without context, but there is a great scene where you are afraid of the stapler. This movie really asks a lot of its actors to dive into all those extreme emotions. So what was the challenge for the actress that she had to suddenly fall into these different extremes?
I think you just go to different places in your imagination. In fact, it was written in the script that Lizzie sees the worst. And so I had to be very specific and make sure she didn’t see the stapler. She actually sees something that makes her blood run cold, right? So I think the trick is to just be very specific.
During your career you have worked with many talented directors. What impressed you the most about working with Joe?
He is so far-sighted. He’s watching a movie before we even get there, you know? He’s very determined, which I appreciate in a director, and very cooperative. As I said before, it creates a space where everyone can just do their job. And he says: “Look, I hired the best people who, in my opinion, are best suited for these positions.” And he gives you the opportunity to be the best. I think it’s just a mark of a great director. Instead of trying to micromanage you, they say, “I believe in you and will push you.” I have nothing but good things to say about Joe. He is the future.