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My Animal’s Amandla Stenberg, Bobbi Salvör Menuez On Love & Lycanthropy

My Animal: Amandla Stenberg, Bobbi Salvör Menuez on Love & Lycanthropy

Amandla Stenberg and Bobbi Salvör Menuez in My Animal
Courtesy of Sundance

PRIDE interviewed the stars of the queer werewolf film (before the SAG-AFTRA strike), which debuted at Sundance, about how it explores identity, sexuality, and transformation.


The horror genre has always offered fertile ground for metaphors and subtextual explorations of sexuality and gender, but perhaps none are quite so poignant as that of the werewolf. It perfectly blends body transformation and insuppressible desire. Both elements are used to great effect in the Sundance Midnight selection My Animal, the feature film debut of director Jacqueline Castel starring Amandla Stenberg and Bobbi Salvör Menuez.

Heather (Menuez) and Jonny (Stenberg) are teens in a very small rural town who are drawn together by an instant mutual attraction. Heather, however, has a lycanthropic secret that adds layers of complication to her coming-of-age. This is also all playing out in a small-town environment, full of small-town minds to boot.

The movie brims with passion, and the chemistry between its stars is electric as they manage to find love in a hopeless place. It’s also just the kind of heady exploration of identity and gender through a horror lens that this reviewer never tires of. As it turns out, these same elements drew Menuez to the role in the first place. “There were so many things about the script and about Heather [I connected to],” Menuez tells PRIDE, adding that, in particular, they responded to the “visceral” world that director Castel and writer Jae Matthew had created.

Salv\u00f6r Menuez sits up in bed in My Animal

Courtesy of Sundance

“I think there was something really tender about Heather to me, at this moment of trying to step into the end of being a teenager and stepping into the natural kind of coming-of-age things that happen around that time in a person's life,” explains Menuez. “Then to bring in these queer elements and also her experience in her body, as someone who has a body that transforms, was just so exciting to me.”

Stenberg echoes Menuez’s excitement over delving into the werewolf subgenre as it pertains to queerness and adolescence. “I like the werewolf metaphor in the context of puberty,” Stenberg tells PRIDE. “Puberty is already a time of transformation and one where you're incredibly vulnerable, your body is shifting, and you're thinking about what it means to inhabit a body and if other people are gonna like your body and what your body wants and what other people think about it. Then, puberty through a queer lens, I feel like becomes an even more complicated swirl of emotion and identity.”

It struck a nerve with Stenberg, herself is a queer person from a small town, and had her instantly identifying with both Heather and Jonny’s journeys

“Puberty was a really bizarre time for me,” shares Stenberg. “I was growing up in a very small community. And so the ability to express and explore facets of myself felt hindered by the judgment of that small community. And so I saw that experience reflected in the script.”

Salv\u00f6r Menuez cuts their hair in My Animal

Courtesy of Sundance

“I think what is kind of beautiful about it is that who you are inherently prevails anyways. Sometimes you get to go through the awkward process of negating those parts of yourself or trying to stuff them down and that can be awkward and painful for yourself and in love,” she adds. “What's beautiful [about My Animal and how it concludes] is that part persists. And there will be another reason, season, or lifetime where it can express itself.”

My Animal is an achingly beautiful story, a modern queer fairy tale anchored by two committed and naturalist performances, heightened by Castel’s vision, and with a thumping ‘80s-inspired electronic score.

Happily, the film was already picked up by Paramount ahead of Sundance. Whether it will be heading to theaters or released digitally through Paramount+ remains to be seen. One thing is certain: whichever way it ends up making it to the screen, My Animal is one you’ll want to sink your claws into — metaphorically speaking.

This interview is part of PRIDE's coverage of The Sundance Film Festival 2023.

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