The Strays director on true story that inspired new Netflix film
Nathaniel Martello-White speaks exclusively to RadioTimes.com about his tense thriller.
New Netflix film The Strays has some pretty clear movie influences – from Jordan Peele's Get Out to Michael Haneke's Funny Games – but what might be less apparent to viewers is that the idea originally stems from a true story.
Writer and director Nathaniel Martello-White – who is making his feature debut – has revealed that his initial inspiration came from a story he heard his mum tell, which instantly raised all sorts of intriguing questions for him.
"[It] was about a woman who essentially was denying the fact that she had two Black children," he explained in an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com.
"[She also] had two children, who were very fair-skinned and almost white-passing, and this woman was biracial. And I was just really struck by the kind of complexities of that, like, what would make somebody feel like they had to erase their past and deny it?"
He added: "I had a really interesting conversation with my mum about generational trauma – she's also biracial – and she was sort of talking to me about her experiences as a biracial woman and kind of traversing different cultures and classes and sometimes being perceived as almost white and kind of how people would treat her.
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"And then the odd sort of slip, and then there's a microaggression or something, which actually is quite offensive, or quite shocking."
The year Martello-White heard this story – which was also the year he first saw Get Out – he was doing the BFI Network program in conjunction with the London Film Festival and Black Star, and the central question he was repeatedly asked was: What should your first feature film be?
"And I sort of came away from that experience being like, it had to be something really personal that sort of explored race in a really complex way but also have a genre element to it that kind of made it more universal and far-reaching," he said.
Star Ashley Madekwe explained that Martello-White had told the cast the same story that he'd heard from his mum, and added that "the idea of generational trauma, I think, is really key".
Meanwhile, Jorden Myrie – who stars as Marvin in the film – revealed that the script had instantly stood out to him as unique when he first read it.
"Instantly I thought it's something very different to what we're used to seeing, especially I think in a UK film," he said. "It's a genre piece, and that's not usually made in the UK, that's usually something you associate with America.
"So to have that here and then for it to be a cast with actors of colour as well, it just made me really excited and wanted to be a part of it."
The Strays is released on Netflix on Wednesday 22nd February 2023. Sign up for Netflix from £6.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.
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