What’s Up With the Pie? Here’s Dominique Fishback’s Take

Mar 28, 2023

[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Swarm, Episode 1, “Stung.”]

There are a lot of unforgettable moments in Donald Glover and Janine Nabers’ new Prime Video series Swarm, but there’s one particularly curious beat that pops up at the end of the premiere episode. It’s the pie scene.

Dominique Fishback leads Swarm as Dre, a woman who grew up obsessed with pop sensation Ni’Jah and is still a super fan as an adult. Whereas her sister, Marissa (Chloe Bailey), has moved on to other things, Dre remains a diehard member of “The Swarm” and takes the idea, “talk about Ni’Jah, you get stung,” way too seriously. The first target Dre stings? Marissa’s boyfriend, Khalid played by Damson Idris.

Image via Prime Video

During the first episode, “Stung,” Dre agrees to cover for Marissa at the shirt kiosk they both work at in the mall. Dre leaves the stand unattended, it gets robbed and vandalized, and at that point, Marissa’s had enough. Back at their shared apartment, Marissa tells Dre she’s moving out to live with Khalid. Dre’s devastated until Ni’Jah drops a surprise project, Festival. After a night out buzzing off of the new Ni’Ja energy, Dre wakes up to a slew of text messages from her sister devastated after discovering Khalid cheated on her. When Dre returns home, she finds her sister dead having taken her own life.

Crushed and completely alone, Dre sets her sights on retaliation and, therefore, on Khalid. She shows up at his father’s house and the two have a brief heart-to-heart about Marissa’s passing. When Khalid’s back is turned, Dre attacks. She viciously beats him to death with a lamp and then turns to the fridge and opts to eat a pie with her hands covered in his blood.

Disturbing? Sure! But the moment is an absolutely brilliant performance beat for Fishback. It’s bursting at the seams with a beguiling complexity that perfectly tees up the sky-high emotion, intensity, and bloodlust that inform Dre’s choices through the rest of the season.

Image via Prime Video

Fishback knew she’d have her work cut out for her filming this particular scene, so she opted to call in a reinforcement, her good friend Monique Coleman. Here’s what Fishback said during her latest Collider Ladies Night interview:

“I had one of my friends, an actress whose name is Monique Coleman, she’s been my friend for like 12 years and she knows me and we’ve been through so many things together, so I wanted somebody who knew me to be on the set that day. I later asked, as a producer, for [a] therapist to be on set for everybody, not just the actors, not just me, crew, for everybody who needs it because although it’s acting, we don’t know what can trigger somebody. So I wanted to make sure that there was support in that kind of way. And Monique came, and she was just a grounding force for me because it’s acting and also you give yourself over. I want to tell the story fully. So I just wanted to make sure that I was spiritually good with somebody who loves and cares about me, and knows me.”

While Fishback knew she had to keep a force of positivity and comfort close by, she also knew she had to keep her distance from someone else — Dre’s target. She continued:

“I did not want to be in the same room as Damson while we waited. That was also important, because I love Damson. I think he’s a great actor, I think he has a great energy, a fun person, but I also think he understood too because we kind of kept our distance that day. Normally, we’re playing. On this day, we kind of just kept our distance from each other.”

Image via Prime Video

In addition to this particular moment being a performance feat for Fishback, it also highlights how Glover’s eye as a director elevates the material. The entire sequence is phenomenal, but the standout visual comes in the form of a lengthy oner that captures Dre’s entire attack after the initial blow. Fishback recalled:

“That shot was done in one shot, in one take, and I remember it was a big discussion because if any part of it was off, then it would essentially cost us about an hour, maybe 40 minutes, to reset to get it. So I remember Donald was talking to the AD and they were discussing it like, did he want to risk it? Did he want to risk losing the time and not getting the shot for this one shot that he really wanted? And ultimately he decided that he did want to risk it, and he looked at us as the actors and was like, ‘Okay, everybody, look, this is what we need. This is how we need it. We have to go through because otherwise we’re gonna lose time.’ And I said, ‘Consider it done!’”

After a brief close-up on Dre covered in blood, the scene cuts back to that oner for the pièce de résistance, the utterly fascinating choice to have Dre shovel pie into her mouth with her hands after the murder. Couldn’t quite figure out exactly what the pie portion of the attack meant? Fear not! Fishback felt the same way and opted to embrace the concept that, sometimes, there’s just no specific justification for Dre’s actions.

“I asked Donald, ‘What’s up with the pie? I don’t understand the pie.’ I really didn’t understand it. [Laughs] But it was like, maybe an insatiable hunger that she has, that was the answer. But again, too, I think the creators really wanted it to be like, whatever you think it is, then it is. You know what I mean? Because even me as an actor, I can’t say why Dre did what she did. I was saying that there’s something called repressed memories, and at one point in the series, she tells a story and then you hear the story a different way and you don’t know which one is true, and I can’t tell anybody which one is true because I think Dre probably suppressed her own memories so much that even I didn’t have access to it.”

Looking for even more from Fishback on the making of Swarm? Be sure to check out her new episode of Collider Ladies Night in the video below:

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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