Home » Chloë Grace Moretz & Riz Ahmed Talk the Importance of ‘Nimona’ – Exclusive Interview

Chloë Grace Moretz & Riz Ahmed Talk the Importance of ‘Nimona’ – Exclusive Interview

by Nicolás Delgadillo
The knight Ballister Blackheart voiced by Riz Ahmed and Nimona the shapeshifter voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz share a happy moment together as Nimona shows off her razor sharp teeth in the Netflix original animated film NIMONA.

Netflix has become somewhat of a champion for the animation industry, having produced a rather impressive amount of acclaimed animated entertainment for all ages in only a decade. Films like Klaus, Over the Moon, The Sea Beast, and Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, along with series such as BoJack Horseman, The Cuphead Show!, and Maya and the Three have given the streaming giant plenty of love and credibility in the animation space. Netflix’s latest animated event is the release of Nimona, a film adaptation of ND Stevenson’s beloved graphic novel starring the vocal talents of Chloë Grace Moretz and Riz Ahmed that’s been a long time in the making.

Originally being produced at Blue Sky Studios, Nimona was infamously shut down once The Walt Disney Company took ownership of it after the Fox merger, even though the film was almost close to being finished. It was reported that Disney pushed back against the film’s open LGBTQ characters, which would have honored ND Stevenson’s original graphic novel. Those who recognize the name of the cartoonist and writer will probably already be familiar with their other Netflix creation, the original animated series She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. ND Stevenson is also known for writing on the Runaways for Marvel Comics and for their Lumberjanes comic series for BOOM! studios.

Thankfully, Annapurna Pictures revived Nimona with DNEG Animation and the additional help of Netflix, all parties looking to release the film in the way it was always intended – unfiltered and metal to the core. DNEG is a rising British animation studio that has contributed to Ron’s Gone Wrong and  Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi’s Netflix special Entergalactic. Taking place in a world that’s an inspired blend of futuristic technology and Medieval fantasy, Nimona follows a recently exiled knight named Ballister Boldheart (Oscar-winner Riz Ahmed) on a quest to clear his name. He reluctantly teams up with a mysterious and mischievous shapeshifter called Nimona (Chloë Grace Moretz of Kick-Ass fame) and the two unravel a sinister plot that threatens the entire kingdom. Eugene Lee Yang, Frances Conroy, Lorraine Toussaint, Beck Bennett, Sarah Sherman, Indya Moore, Julio Torres, & RuPaul himself round out the supporting voice cast.

Directed by Nick Bruno and Troy Quane, the same duo behind Spies in Disguise, and written for the screen by Robert L. Baird Lloyd Taylor among others, Nimona is the epitome of a modern animated classic. It features a unique look and style, lovable characters, high energy, and a strong, funny, and moving story backed by some rather eloquent themes. The wait has definitely been worth it for this movie, and we had the chance to talk with its two stars, Chloë Grace Moretz and Riz Ahmed, to talk about the extensive ride of its production and what they hope audiences take away from Nimona.

Exclusive Interview with Chloë Grace Moretz & Riz Ahmed for Nimona on Netflix

As much of a movie guy as I am, I’m also a big heavy metal guy. So Sound of Metal was something that was right up my alley.

Riz Ahmed: Aw, I’m so glad. So how did you feel about the fact that what Nimona always says in this film is “Metal”?

That felt specifically catered toward me.

Riz Ahmed: That was almost just for you, right?

Ballister Blackheart and Nimona agree to team up by shaking hands while Nimona is in the form of a large pink anthropomorphic shark in the new Netflix original animated film.
‘Nimona’ courtesy of Netflix

Part of the story of this film is the journey of the production itself. Even for an animated film, which normally take several years even if they run smoothly, Nimona has been in the making for a very long time and has gone through different directors and different studios. What can you share about your involvement in that process?

Chloë Grace Moretz: It was a long journey and it was one that changed and shifted a lot like her. The story of this movie persevering is very similar to the story inside the film itself, which I think is also very interesting and indicative of how important Nimona is. I think it goes back to the inception. ND Stevenson created this as a web comic, which grew into his thesis in college, and then it grew into a graphic novel because of the amount of love that it received. That got picked up and turned into the film that we were recording for several years. Then sadly, when Blue Sky came down, the project got shelved.

We were all really heartbroken when that happened; that such a beautiful project wouldn’t get seen. We were already so far into recording. We were almost done! The fact that it gained new life with Netflix and Annapurna and they championed this project, I just think it’s a testament to the story that ND created. It’s had legs since he created it several years ago. I think this project is so important for the world to be out there, and is also so fun and silly and just fun to watch.

Riz Ahmed: My journey on Nimona has been a really long one because that’s the nature of animation. Sometimes that’s elongated even more when things like this happen. The company that was making the film kind of wound down, and then there was a pause, and they found a new home for it. So that made the process even longer. But as you said, animation is a meticulous marathon of a process and I was new to it. I’ll be honest, I thought I would be in and out in a couple of sessions. It turns out, I’m still in it a couple of years later! Which is a joy really, because our directors, Nick and Troy, just did not leave any stone unturned in making sure that we got all the humor, all the emotion, and all the playfulness of the original graphic novel, in every scene.

When you’re by yourself recording for your character, how do you find the right kind of rhythm and energy that’s needed for a movie like this?

Riz Ahmed: It’s really down to the directors, Nick and Troy. They played basically every other role in everyone’s recording sessions. They just have this inexhaustible energy and they’re constantly keeping you on your toes with new fresh ideas and improvisations. They gave us that free rein to try new things out. So even though you’re in a booth or on your own and you think it’s isolating, it felt like it was a process that was just fizzing with energy, you know?

Ballister Blackheart falls on top of the shapeshifter Nimona while she's in the form of a giant pink whale in the middle of a huge castle in the Netflix original animated film.
‘Nimona’ courtesy of Netflix

This isn’t just a great and fun film but it could also be an important one for a large number of people. In a lot of animated films, when it comes to LGBTQ representation, it’ll either only be hinted at or the character may have like, a single line of dialogue. Nimona doesn’t only have clear representation right off the bat, but LGBTQ themes are also directly baked into the story and character arcs. How does it feel to have this movie characterized in that way? As important as it is, does it also feel limiting when these ideas can be considered universal?

Riz Ahmed: It’s not about limiting. It’s not about universal. I think that for Ballister, part of his emotional truth is the relationship that he’s in. And that’s something that the film is proud of and that he’s proud of. In a way, it’s something that he’s fighting for over the course of the movie. But I think the film is about what underlies that. It’s about acceptance. I would say that’s the overarching theme of the film above anything else.

Nimona is about how sometimes we look for other people’s acceptance, but we have to give it to ourselves first. And what’s more, sometimes we have to think about how we can extend the hand of acceptance as well. Ballister is someone who feels quite misunderstood, but how is he misunderstanding characters like Nimona? How can he really practice what he preaches if he wants to be understood? How can he try and understand her better?

Chloë Grace Moretz: What’s really important is that this is a story for anyone that’s ever felt other. This is a story for anyone that’s felt ostracized, or like they had to fit into society’s expectations or norms when they just wanted to be themselves. I think that’s really, really important.

When I took a bunch of friends to see this for the first time, I think the resounding message that everyone really stuck with is how they felt so seen. How if they had this when they were younger, they would have been even more willing to kind of brush up against the expectations of what you’re told is normal. That goes for all walks of life, in my opinion, so I hope that people really connect to it. Exactly as you said, it is such a universal theme and I really, really hope that that comes across when people see this.

Nimona premieres on Netflix June 30!

Follow Senior Film Critic Nicolás Delgadillo on Twitter: @NickyD715

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