Blumhouse Stepped Up for an ‘Imaginary’ Crew Member in a Beautiful Way

Mar 11, 2024

The Big Picture

Welcome to a new episode of Collider Ladies Night with
star and executive producer, DeWanda Wise.
During her conversation with Collider’s Perri Nemiroff, Wise revisits a nightmare note she received while attached to
Captain Marvel
, discusses how she aims to obliterate toxicity on sets as a producer, and loads more.

hits theaters nationwide on March 8th.

One of the greatest joys of Collider Ladies Night is welcoming a guest back to the show and celebrating how much they’ve accomplished in such a short period of time. That’s the case with DeWanda Wise. She was on Ladies Night for her very first franchise film, Jurassic World Dominion, in 2022 and now she’s back as the star and executive producer of a Blumhouse horror movie.

Wise headlines Imaginary as Jess, a woman who moves back into her childhood home with her husband Max (Tom Payne) and her stepdaughters, Alice (Pyper Braun) and Taylor (Taegen Burns). Soon after moving in, the youngest, Alice, develops an attachment to a stuffed bear named Chauncey. Jess and Max brush it off as a charming connection between a child and her imaginary friend, but when Chauncey’s scavenger hunt becomes increasingly sinister and dangerous, Jess is forced to accept the fact that Chauncey might be more than a stuffed toy, and he might also have a connection to her own long-forgotten past.

Imaginary A woman returns to her childhood home to discover that the imaginary friend she left behind is very real and unhappy that she abandoned him.Release Date March 8, 2024 Director Jeff Wadlow Cast DeWanda Wise , Tom Payne , Betty Buckley , Veronica Falcón Runtime 104 Minutes Studio Blumhouse

Wise is now a bonafide leading lady and a producing powerhouse who influences her sets for the better. The backbone for such a skill set and the confidence required to support it? Wise’s #1 cheerleader, someone who happened to be in the room during our interview, her mother.

Here’s what Wise told me when asked for something she accomplished in her early days as an actor that confirmed she deserved to be a star in this industry:

“I think there’s a version of my life where I could be a raging narcissist because my mother, Margie, she is such a cheerleader. She’s such an encourager. So I don’t think there was actually ever the doubt to overcome to begin with. Does that make sense? The question implies that there was a moment where I was uncertain [laughs], and then I was like, ‘You know what? I
good at this.’ I was singing when I was a kid. We were always at church in church choirs.
There was never a ceiling. I didn’t experience a ceiling, actually,
I’m well in my twenties and I’m either in training or in the industry
, and I’m like, ‘What? Y’all got rules. That’s crazy. My mama told me I’m amazing.’”

DeWanda Wise Nearly Dropped Out of NYU, This Dream Team Helped Her Through
Image via Blumhouse

Wise encountered her first significant ceiling while studying New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, a notoriously pricy institution. She explained:

“The first ceiling I hit was, I was a student at NYU and that’s a very expensive school. So I hit a financial wall. I hit a wall where I ended up writing an email to all my classmates, and I was like,
‘I’ve had the best year with you, but I cannot afford to be here anymore.’
And my friend Melanie Crim told her mom about it and her mom cosigned on a loan for me for school. And every year at NYU, between that support and Dean Mary Schmidt Campbell and Sandra Bowie, who ran the department, and Dory Smith Turner, who was our financial aid lady at Tisch at the time, between the trifecta of those women, I was able to make it through training.”

Education should be affordable, not a luxury reserved for the lucky few, but at the very least, let’s hope more universities have leaders like Wise’s NYU dream team.

The Nightmarish Acting Note DeWanda Wise Received When She Almost Did ‘Captain Marvel’
Image via Universal

Another bump in the road Wise encountered as her star soared was the notion that, if you joined a film franchise, you’d be doing “blockbuster acting.” In fact, she came face to face with that expectation while preparing to play Maria Rambeau in Captain Marvel, a film she ultimately had to drop out of due to a scheduling conflict with her acclaimed series, She’s Gotta Have It.

Wise recalled:

“I don’t think I’ve said this, and this is not good news, but when I almost did
Captain Marvel
, there was a crew member, because I was going down the process, and they said to me, ‘Yeah, you know how it is, these movies, you hit your mark, you say your line, you go home.’ And the way your eyes just lit up, I heard that and I was like,
‘That is my own personal nightmare. That sounds crazy and terrible to me.’

Fortunately, when Wise got another chance to join a hugely popular film series, Jurassic World, she was gifted the exact opposite type of acting experience. She began:

“There was one point where I had a conversation with the casting director, and
a lot of people believe in acting for a specific genre. I don’t. I don’t think there’s a blockbuster style of acting
. I understand all the aesthetic sensibilities. I understand as an actor when I’m in a moment that’s a cinematic moment. I know when there’s a wind machine in my face, you know what I mean? I know technically that I need to make sure the hair is not in my eyes so that I’m actually being captured. But
when it comes to the emotional truth of a character, you’re gonna get it no matter what genre I’m in
. And I’m convinced that part of the reason that a lot of people responded to Kayla is because Kayla’s a real person. Kayla is just a woman in a blockbuster. It’s why she’s trying to get out of there, because that would be a real person in that scenario. So everything about what that means, the emotional core, the full building blocks of character that I would do for
Three Women
, I’m doing for
Jurassic World Dominion

Image via Universal Pictures

Wise’s intentions for Kayla and her approach to acting in general paid off big time. Kayla is indeed one of the biggest standouts of Jurassic World Dominion.

Wise continued:

“Something that I think just surprised me and was like a major gift, and also a gift that I continue to experience, I experienced it on this job too, was having a degree of creative agency. Not even control. You know, Hollywood talks about control and power a lot. It’s not even about that. It’s just having great collaborators who are listening to you, you know? And that is an unexpected gift that that job gave me, that even knowing that I could be the artist that I am in a space where actors traditionally don’t feel like that, where they just feel like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m gonna go and make this money.’
Knowing that I could be the nerdy human being that I am, even in
space, even in this prototypically capitalistic, commercial space was mind-blowing.

As though I wasn’t already a big enough Jurassic Park and World fan, knowing the recent films rocked this kind of creative atmosphere makes me even prouder to be Jurassic obsessed.

DeWanda Wise on Toxic Sets: “It’s Just a Full Stop No for Me”

Odds are, productions Wise commits to in the future will have a similar safe and positive space to play, especially if she’s working on the project in a producing capacity.

During the Imaginary portion of our conversation, we used Chauncey’s scavenger hunt as a road map, and when we hit the “something that makes you mad” item on the evil bear’s list, Wise proudly proclaimed, “I don’t do toxic sets.” She counted:

“I just don’t do it. It’s just a full stop no for me. There’s a difference, though, between being an executive producer on a set and establishing a positive work environment where everyone feels comfortable to say something if they see something, where everyone has stakes, where everyone knows that they are an equal partner in creating and telling this story. [It’s] one thing to be able to set that from the ground up because then the
time is delightful, and it’s another thing to be an actor on a job and have to troubleshoot and have to be the wannabe therapist and the peer mediator that I become when people aren’t communicating, when someone’s just acting out and just clearly needs a hug or needs to assess what they need. I’ll do it. I have the time and the skill set, but it does make me mad.
It makes me mad when people are mistreated. It makes me mad when people don’t feel safe and taken care of in an environment where it’s really actually very easy to do.

Wise wasn’t the only person on the Imaginary set who greatly valued creating a safe and supportive on-set environment.

When a crew member went through a crushing tragedy, the full Imaginary team, including Blumhouse, stepped up in a big way. Wise recalled:

“We had a crew member go through something. There’s a moment at the end of the film where there’s a fire, and we had a crew member lose their home, because that’s how life works. It was
We had a crew member who lost their house in a fire, and the way that that crew came together to take care, to start a GoFundMe, the way that Blumhouse —
props to Blumhouse — stepped in, not only did we create a culture of care, but it was real and it impacted people’s actual lives on that set.
We were shooting during a strike year, and more than anything, even more than whatever happens with this movie,
happens with this movie, I can walk away saying, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we are creating something very special in the industry, that it
possible, and that you can leave whatever your environment is, whatever space you are in, in a way that’s stronger, better, safer and more positive than you found it.”

Eager to hear even more from Wise on the making of Imaginary, her hopes for the future of the Jurassic franchise, and more? You can catch our full Collider Ladies Night interview in the video at the top of this article, or you can listen to the conversation in podcast form below:

Imaginary is now playing in theaters in the U.S. Click below for showtimes.

Get Tickets

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