In I’m A Virgo, Olivia Washington Embraces Her Inside ‘Alien’

There’s one thing stunning within the weird, disquieting alchemy of Boots Riley’s new Prime Video collection I’m A Virgo, by which a 13-foot-tall big by the title of Cootie (Jharrel Jerome) falls for a burger prepare dinner named Flora, whose cells vibrate at a frequency far sooner than that of your common patty-flipper. The very existence of Cootie and Flora and their super-abilities on this universe questions how and why we worth normality; in spite of everything, we regularly discover ourselves drawn towards particular individuals not as a result of they’re “common,” however as a result of they’re our specific model of wierd. Actress Olivia Washington, who performs Flora, describes this affinity like extra-terrestrials discovering they inhabit the identical overseas planet. Whenever you discover your “alien,” she explains, it’s like returning dwelling.

However what makes Cootie and Flora’s burgeoning romance in season 1 so mesmerizing to observe will not be its ease, however the relative lack thereof. Flora, deemed autistic as a baby due to her incapacity to speak on the tempo of these round her, yearns for Cootie to share his innermost ideas as he’s pulled to the brink of revolution.

“I don’t wish to inform you the whole lot that’s in my head,” Cootie reveals to her as he begins to embrace his standing as a “villain.”


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“Then what sort of connection do you wish to have?” Flora asks. “I imply, we will simply sit in a room and, like, eat and fuck and watch TV, however—I like these issues, however months for you is years for me, and for those who can’t speak to me now, then—”

“I don’t need you to assume I’m loopy,” says Cootie.

To which Flora replies, “Cootie … I welcome loopy. I would like some rattling loopy in my life.”

It’s a sentiment many viewers will acknowledge in their very own relationships, and one Washington says she and Jerome treasured—even when it required they stare for hours at each scaled-up and miniaturized dolls somewhat than one another’s precise faces. These pressured perspective methods and difficult character work pushed Washington not solely to re-consider her abilities as an actress however to evaluate her needs for a profession that’s lastly conducting lift-off. Each her dad and mom, Denzel and Pauletta Washington, and her brother, John David Washington, have earned huge success in Hollywood. In work like I’m A Virgo—Washington’s first main on-screen position—she’s discovered her alien.

Under, Washington discusses evolving the position of the “love curiosity,” trusting her personal quirks, and her ideas on a possible season 2.

Flora is a model of a trope we’ve seen many instances earlier than in comedian guide media: the super-speedy superhuman, à la The Flash or Quicksilver. However Flora doesn’t really feel like a hero we’ve seen earlier than. How—or maybe why—did that enchantment to you?

What drew me is that she sees the world in her particular method. Others may see [her speed] as one thing that’s not enabling her to stay a traditional life. She’s dwelling in her actuality, and her actuality is that everyone else round her is definitely the completely different individual, not her.

Particularly for Flora, her upbringing was that they thought she had these disabilities and that she would stay this type of completely different life. Nonetheless, it’s her energy; it’s her superpower. It’s the factor that she will use to vary the world.

You’ve already spoken at size concerning the technical challenges of filming I’m A Virgo, and notably the intercourse scenes you shared with Jharrel Jerome—or, a minimum of, the doll model of him. However I’m focused on how these technical challenges pressured you to study new abilities as an actress. What was that like?

Yeah, it was actually about belief. I couldn’t depend on seeing what Jharrel was doing to form of react. However I may depend on the period of time that we spent collectively on and off-set: the rehearsal course of that Boots took us all beneath earlier than we began taking pictures, after which, much less rehearsal, however simply us hanging out with one another and actually feeling the power of our forged members. Jharrel and I might get in lengthy conversations about our love of what we do—so trusting that and never hiding from it, however increasing my muscle of creativity and creativeness.

I imply, from one other technical side, we have been sporting earpieces, so if we weren’t in the identical room, I may hear [Jharrel] and after a sure period of time we might be like, Oh, I do know what face you’re making. So that you react to what you’re listening to— this big and listening to Jharrel and vice versa. And each time that we might be in the identical room, we might form of be crouching behind the digital camera or the doll model of ourselves, however averting our eyes so that you don’t ever look.

olivia washington posing next to a vase

Dominic Miller

You’ve stated in different interviews, as nicely, that what Boots needed from you as an actress on this position is one thing you’d been discouraged from in different roles. Do you thoughts clarifying what you meant by that?

Ordinarily, I might say—up to now—if you’re enjoying girlfriends or wives or these romantic pursuits … No shade, however it is extremely formulaic. It’s, I’m going to inform my sturdy male counterpart to not do the sturdy courageous factor. “Don’t try this courageous factor! Try to be extra wise!”

And Boots stated, “No, [Flora’s] truly actually down for the whole lot that [Cootie] is doing. She desires to be part of it, and he or she additionally desires so as to add her two cents in.”

Much less particularly, my little quirks and oddities as a individual are, like, how I wish to categorical a type of artwork that may not look clear, cute, or fairly. I felt, on this area, linked to her deeply—to a actuality, an actual individual.

What do you assume Flora and Cootie see in one another that nobody else had acknowledged in them as much as that time?

Oh, I like that query. So there’s this want for discovery that they each maintain. What I simply really feel so tenderly about is … We are able to all be so cynical. We are able to all be so chilly. The world is harsh. So if you discover someone who holds—I at all times name it your “little alien”—if you discover someone with whom your aliens can converse to one another, it’s so particular.

So [Flora] finds someone that she is shocked by, pleasantly shocked by, which is to me only a bigger type of what love is. It’s like if you fall in love with somebody: Oh, I didn’t know that existed on this planet.

I appreciated that, even with how nicely the 2 join and the way a lot they perceive one another, their romance will not be cutesy and sanitized. I cherished that they bought aggravated with one another about hygiene and poor communication. Why did that really feel so essential to painting as a part of their relationship?

We love watching individuals fall in love. We would not watching them be in love. However I believe that each one, once more, speaks to Boots’ creativity. When someone that you just care deeply about is doing one thing extraordinarily annoying, and also you’re like, I hate you and I like you on the identical time. How do you painting that?

And once more, Boots takes these concepts that aren’t unusual, tales that aren’t extraordinary, and he fully shifts the angle and the lens by which we’re it. So I like the truth that you get this second of honesty between the 2. As a result of it makes you do not forget that everyone goes to the lavatory, everyone has to blow their nostril, even the best of the best. So it was such a wonderful little tender second between the 2 of them.

olivia washington posing with her hand partially obscuring her face in shadow

Dominic Miller

I wish to ask a couple of line in episode 6, when Flora tells Cootie, “I’m not bored as a result of my life strikes slowly. I’m bored as a result of individuals are so predictable.” What did you make of that line? What’s she attempting to speak to him?

Boots stated this some time in the past, and it simply actually rings true nowadays. Us as human beings have such a deep want to hook up with individuals. And I believe for Flora, the high quality of the connection is integral to the connection.

So many individuals have these form of surface-level needs to attach. I believe what [Flora] means is that so many individuals don’t wish to hit beneath the floor. And for those who’re constructing one thing price its salt, if you’ll, it’s important to dig into the earth, at no matter tempo you wish to transfer at.

I discovered that to be so stunning that Boots wrote that and made {that a} form of engine for her. As a result of once more, she is a younger girl who’s not caught at dwelling. She’s out on this planet and he or she is seeking the lid to her pot. And she or he desires it to be nice. As a result of why not?

Doing this mission, what do you’re feeling you’ve since realized about what you finally need out of your profession?

Wow. I’m always studying concerning the enterprise components of the profession. Nonetheless, I would like extra. I’ve a deep want to proceed to inform tales at this type of degree and deeply and absolutely. You possibly can’t make me return to the one-dimensional feminine position. Don’t make me return.

It’s so thrilling to be on this area and to create on this method and never should be one factor for another person’s character development. So I would like extra of this and to proceed to work with extremely gifted up-and-coming or established writer-directors.

Do you discover that you’re seeing extra alternatives for that form of work?

On this planet, completely. There are some unimaginable filmmakers—and shout out to the unimaginable new class of younger Black feminine creatives which can be up-and-coming. And there’s some spectacular movies within the indie world which were catching numerous consideration, rightfully so.

It’s extraordinarily inspiring to know that we’re now not caught enjoying small—in each capability, not simply as an actor.

jharrel jerome as cootie and olivia washington as flora in im a virgo season 1

Amazon Prime Video

If there’s a season 2 of I’m A Virgo, would you be focused on returning? And what would you wish to see by way of Flora’s continued story?

You see, it’s exhausting to reply the second half. The primary half? Completely. I’ll do something that Boots makes. So I’m like, it’s not even a negotiation.

But additionally reiterating the identical sentiment, Boots Riley is among the most artistic individuals I’ve ever labored with. So, who am I to say what he’s going to create [for Flora]? I might assume too small. I imply, who is aware of the place we are going to go? The place we choose up from? [Smiles.] I’d know, however not that I’m going to share.

I’m simply so excited to proceed to be on this world. I might love nothing extra.

This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.

Headshot of Lauren Puckett-Pope

Tradition Author

Lauren Puckett-Pope is a workers tradition author at ELLE, the place she primarily covers movie, tv and books. She was beforehand an affiliate editor at ELLE.