Exclusive Interview: Cast and Director of Exceptional Beings
Exceptional Beings, the prequel to Godhood, tracks the existential crisis of two supernatural beings as they begin to question their very being and purpose. When they encounter a woman with an essence they can’t “read,” they begin a quest to discover who or what she truly is, which does not fit with their 4,000 years of knowledge of human existence. As they journey through her life, their desperation to understand not only her but themselves drives the gods to extremes.
Exceptional Beings was written and co-directed by Njedeh Anthony, supported by an incredible cast and crew. Psychological action fantasy thriller Exceptional Beings is available on North American TVOD/digital platform and DVD from January 31, 2023. Our Classic Couple Academy interview with Njedeh Anthony and members of the film’s cast follows.
The film and your performances bring “humanity” to deity. How did each of you approach your roles?
Dane Oliver: It’s interesting getting to play a liberal god. First thing you get to do is take all of your human problems. Standard things like you’re going to die someday and throw them out the window. Those things don’t matter anymore, which makes it possible to focus more clearly on the little petty issues in human day-to-day life. So I can take some of the big human problems and throw them out and then Hermes just becomes a brother who doesn’t have a great relationship with his sister. He becomes the least favorite child of his father. He becomes one of the loneliest people on Earth who is covering it up with everything that he possibly has.
Ciarra Cartern: Piggybacking off what Dane said, I liked that we can really focus on the power in the spirit of this particular character and what it is as an individual that you bring to it. I pulled from a lot of great people who I felt embody that as well as bringing my own flair to it. I went back and watched a lot of Angelina Jolie and Angela Bassett films. I even went back to the old black and white movies with Joan Crawford. I really got in there and put all that together with what my perception was of Athena. It was so much fun; it was special.
Rachel, your character is human and then we find out there’s something else going on. What is your perspective on the humanity and deity balance in your acting?
Rachel Thundat: Absolutely. It was so much fun and such a challenge to have to play both sides. For the Mina character her life has been to act, to fit in and to be part of the human world. Being able to switch that at the end was probably one of my favorite parts. But the way that I really approached the character was to keep in mind my through line and my relationship with Athena which—without giving anything away—is one of the big reveals at the end. Each scene, I had to keep that in mind, keep that as my goal and my focus. At the heart of it, that’s truly what mattered to me.
Njedeh, what was your direction to your actors to portray deity and humanity?
Njedeh Anthony: This is a prequel to Godhood and so there was already a foundation for some of the characters. With the actors, they came in with their own magic. They came in and took it to a much higher level, and the movie is what it is because of them. They basically go into scenes on their own and we build a little bit more on whatever I give to them.
The film travels across time and place, moving to various locations and using stunning visual effects to convey the story. And yet, it also relies heavily on discourse and dialogue—much like a stage play. How did you work together to balance the ordinary and the spectacular in your performances?
Ciarra Cartern: I just felt like we had great leaders involved. We had crazy amounts of rehearsals. And then it allowed us to connect and build off of that energy that was already there. As far as the dialogue, some of it was very to me, poetic. So is just the rhythm of it and really getting in there and exploring all that and hitting those beats.
Dane Oliver: I just think you’ve hit on something really interesting about them transitioning between ordinary and spectacular because I think it’s a character thing. I think the gods are very much aware of their reputations and how they would like to be perceived. And that’s something larger than life. And so, they slip into this heightened language—all this posturing. But then you get them in an awkward moment, and they suddenly turn into these very petty beings who use very modern language. I think that’s part of the fun of it—that transition between knowing we’re being watched and wanting to be some representation of ourselves, and then who we really are and how that slips out.
Rachel Thundat: For me, it was being able to discover and live in that human place with the human traits. And, for the gods, it’s discovering these human traits and these human emotions and feelings that aren’t instinctual for them. I will say what Ciarra said that we had great leaders. We did so much rehearsal, and that helped us to build chemistry within the cast and with our crew. I think that led to an easier time being able to handle the dialogue. We did so many stunt rehearsals for these extraordinary supernatural fight scenes that we have. We were very comfortable with doing them because we’d rehearsed it so many times and we were comfortable with each other. Being able to have that rehearsal time gave us the ability to explore the script before production and to talk with Njedeh and really understand what was happening in the scripts at a very, very deep level before we even started rolling the camera. That was incredible and very helpful.
Let’s get the directors’ perspective on standout moment, standout experience while making Exceptional Beings. Njedeh?
Njedeh Anthony: This goes back to the actors and how professional they are. We had a lot of rehearsals and every day when they came on set, we didn’t have issues. They just made everything work no matter where it was—whether it was in the desert, in the restaurant, on the plane, flying in the air, going outside, or driving on the rain. It was just so magical. And I keep using magic because it was extraordinary and to me magic. I’ll say that I was so blessed with the people and the cast and crew on this movie.
Since we’ve been talking about exceptional beings. What do each of you think is your personal Superpower?
Dane Oliver: I woke up this morning and didn’t cry when my alarm went off. That feels like a superpower.
Njedeh Anthony: I would say that I always want to learn. I think I got that way because I have daughters that keep teaching me that I’m wrong every single time. So, yes, my superpower is learning. I love to learn something new every day.
Rachel Thundat: I would say mine is empathy. I feel like I’m able to understand people no matter what their situation is, no matter how different they are from me. I find it very easy to connect and to understand their perspective. I think that helps a lot with acting and character work.
Dane Oliver: Well, I guess we’re going deep then. I think the idea of thinking of anything we can do as superpowers is sort of antithetical to the strengths in everything that we do. Everything that I think is good about myself is something that that anyone could do. These things don’t have to be superpowers. I don’t know that I could ever refer to anything good about me as a superpower because everything we do that is good is possible of everyone around us.
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Watch the Exceptional Beings trailer.