2020 is becoming a huge year for Janelle Monae.
The star opened the Oscars in February with a politically charged performance which became one of the night’s talking points.
And the delayed release of highly anticipated horror movie Antebellum – in which Monae plays the lead role – is only helping to build expectations.
Sandwiched between those events is today’s launch of the second series of Homecoming on Amazon Prime Video.
The first season hit headlines for being Julia Roberts‘ return to episodic TV, and while the Notting Hill star doesn’t return as a cast member, she has stayed on as executive producer and was among the team that hand-picked Monae for the role.
It’s something the eight-time Grammy nominated artist says she’s still getting her head around.
The 34-year-old tells Sky News’ Backstage podcast: “I’m still pinching myself that, you know, that I should lead the season.
“And this season was never supposed to be a continuation of Julia’s story… You can watch this season without watching season one, I don’t recommend it – I like season one… But it’s not dependent.
“When they reached out to me, I read the scripts, I knew what I loved about the first season, and so I was like, if they can bring in the things that I love or try to top the things that I love in the second season, it’s a yes for me.
“And after I read the script, it was apparent that this was going to be even more elevated.”
While the second series stands alone, there are returning cast members including Hong Chau and Bobby Cannavale, and the story again features the shady Geist corporation.
The new season opens with Monae’s character waking up in a boat in the middle of a lake with no memory of who she is or how she got there (no spoilers here, it’s in the trailer).
The twists and turns start coming thick and fast, but the dialogue in the show is minimal and it’s often left to the Moonlight actress to convey what’s going on without saying anything – a challenge she says she enjoys.
“I love less dialogue, I love it,” Monae said.
“I mean, you strengthen another muscle, it’s reservation and preserving – I’m a minimalist, you know, from my clothes to everything, and even with my emotions on screen.
“I find the most powerful actors don’t move a lot, they’re not all over the place… That’s what I love most about this role, people say that’s difficult to do, for me, I prefer it. Less is more.”
Despite that she admitted that shooting that opening scene was daunting.
“I had read over that scene a lot, like I was really nervous about filming it because I knew that was gonna be the opening,” Monae explained.
“Like I’m always nervous about the openings of all things, and one of the reasons [in this] is like, how do you act out not knowing who you are?
“And so a couple of projects that helped me with it, or helped determine how I wanted to play it was Memento and The Bourne Identities.”
Monae had established herself as a successful musician – critically lauded and adored by her fans, when she made the move in to acting.
Her first two features, Moonlight and Hidden Figures, were smashes at the box office and during awards season in 2017/18, so the fact she’s nervous about openings comes as a surprise.
She admits the anxiety is related to a lack of control.
“It’s nerve wracking, because, you know, I do things based on my tastes and my gut, [but] I also don’t get the final cut.”
“I may have a different way of cutting things like in doing films and TV that’s the one thing – like with my album, I have complete autonomy and control and final cut is me, with TV and film that’s not the case.”
But she says the Homecoming team – creators Eli Horowitz and Michah Bloomberg and executive producer Sam Esmail – put her at ease.
“It’s always great that you can work with people that you trust and you feel like your taste is on the same frequency because you know, you’ve got to agree on the character and what they would do or how they would do something.”
“Having Michah and Eli and Sam, everyone involved watched the episodes and they told me how they were feeling, how excited they were, then I was like, okay, let me watch myself.”
“And I must say, it’s my favourite TV show out right now, period, hands down – even if I wasn’t in it, I would say this.”
Homecoming launches on Prime Video today.