Mamoudou Athie is no stranger to the horror/thriller genre, having starred in such films as 2020’s Underwater and Amazon Prime’s anthology series, Welcome to the Blumhouse: Black Box, and can be seen in the upcoming Jurassic World: Dominion. In his most recent role as Dan Turner in the Netflix horror series, ARCHIVE 81, he plays an archivist who takes on a job restoring damaged cassettes from 1994 recorded by Melody Pendras, a documentary filmmaker trying to uncover the truth of a supposed cult at the Visser apartments. As he falls further down the rabbit hole, he becomes increasingly obsessed with uncovering the truth behind the disappearance of Melody Pendras.
For the upcoming release of ARCHIVE 81, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Shannon McGrew spoke with actor Mamoudou Athie. During their chat, they discussed everything from what about Dan pulled Athie in to how the pandemic both helped and hindered the creative process, and wrapping with whether or not Athie is a fan of found footage horror.
To kick things off, prior to being cast for the series, were you familiar with the podcast ARCHIVE 81 is based on? If not, what was it about the character of Dan that interested you?
Mamoudou Athie: I was not [familiar with the podcast]. My first time hearing about it was when the project came my way. The character of Dan… I’m always drawn to romantic and hopefully, it’s clear that he’s a romantic. Maybe not in the traditional sense of like, you know, boy meets girl but somebody who has a lot of heart. [Dan] has this deep spirituality that’s in him even if it’s a bit macabre [Laughs]. I just like him. He’s just a great guy. He’s been really damaged by his past and wants to be different for other people. I just really liked the character a lot.
Your character restores damaged videotapes so when it came time for you to portray that, did you learn the ins and outs of that type of work?
Mamoudou Athie: It’s a very simple, but very difficult process. I would be complete crap at it but it was interesting to get to learn on the job. It’s a very patience-oriented field which I think speaks to the difference between Dan and me. I’m not a very patient person [Laughs].
Dan goes through a lot of heightened emotions throughout this 8-episode series, experiencing isolation, loneliness, sadness, anger, etc. How difficult was it for you to get into that headspace and were you given any specific direction to help with that?
Mamoudou Athie: I don’t think it was necessary. We’re still in the middle of this pandemic and this was even prior to the vaccine, so I wasn’t hanging out with anybody or doing anything but learning lines and going to set. That [experience] we got for free but at a cost. It was very challenging, I can’t lie to you. It was one of the most difficult shoots I’ve had due to all that is going on in the world and which made the circumstances of shooting difficult. But, at the same time, it was also quite rewarding, because I felt like we were doing good work and everybody was putting their all into it. But yeah, it was challenging.
Dan and Melody Pentras end up forming a unique and mysterious connection. How was it working so closely with actor Dina Shihabi?
Mamoudou Athie: It was great being with a great team partner. The thing I loved about it in particular and, this is my experience with every single person I’ve worked with, to be fair on the set, but everyone just helped each other. We just helped each other and we just talked and we listened but primarily we just helped each other, which I thought was really beautiful. There’s no ego in the way and you’re just doing the work for the sake of the work and being devoted as you possibly can. No cut corners. That’s what I enjoyed about working with Dina and to be honest, everyone else.
I’m a huge found footage fan. Where do you land on that? Are you a fan?
Mamoudou Athie: I’m not [Laughs]. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen any found footage. It’s not that I don’t like horror. It’s just I don’t really engage with it. It’s still just acting but it’s like, okay, these are the circumstances and how would somebody react in those circumstances? I can approach it, in the same way, I approach Jurassic World: Dominion and anything else I’ve done, such as The Front Runner. It’s the same deal to me [Laughs].
ARCHIVE 81 arrives exclusively on Netflix on January 14, 2022. For more on the film, check out our review here.
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