Where do we go when we fall asleep? For young Nemo (Marlow Barkley), it’s a dream world called Slumberland, the official title of Netflix’s latest adventure film. After losing her father, Peter (Kyle Chandler), Nemo moves in with her uncle (Chris O’Dowd), but fails to connect with him and her new classmates as she would rather live in Slumberland. With her spirits low, Nemo’s luck turns around when she meets Flip (Jason Momoa), a half-man/half-monster, in Slumberland.
Nemo helps Flip find Peter’s secret treasure map, and in exchange, Flip brings Nemo on the quest. If the duo finds a magic pearl at the end of their destination, Nemo can wish to see her father again. However, Nemo must avoid nightmares and the relentless Agent Green (Weruche Opia), who will stop at nothing to capture Flip. Directed by Francis Lawrence, Slumberland is a sci-fi fantasy adventure about the purity of childhood and how you’re never too old to dream.
In an interview with Digital Trends, O’Dowd, Opia, and Chandler marvel over Barkley’s talent and share why Slumberland will resonate with both children and adults.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Digital Trends: The biggest talking point from this film will be about Marlow and her talent. I couldn’t believe this was her first feature film. Chris, what’s one thing that stood out to you about Marlow?
Chris O’Dowd: She’s very present, and I know that’s something that you hear a lot. She’s listening, not in that active listening way where people are nodding, but not really taking anything you’re saying. But that gorgeous thing of, “OK. I’m going to be aware and be able to react to whatever just happens.” So I found that refreshing because you don’t find that in a lot of grown-up actors. [Laughs]
She already has that at such a young age. Kyle, as someone who is a father and has played a dad/family man in films and TV shows. What do you think is the secret to building a good relationship with a child on screen?
Kyle Chandler: It’s a two-way street. With what you [motions to O’Dowd] just said about her performance, she’s also someone, and you get this early on, she’s very independently minded. She’s not afraid to express her thoughts.
O’Dowd: At all!
Chandler: She’s nobody’s fool on top of it. It was very easy, and she was a joy to work with. It was kind of seamless. It was very nice.
Weruche, you got to spend a lot of time with Jason in your scenes. His charisma jumps off the screen. Can you share your experience of what it was like to work with him?
Weruche Opia: It was fun. Jason is a ball of energy. He comes in every morning ready to rock and roll, and very playful, which is fun to be around on set as well. The long days, being able to keep the energy up, a lot of our scenes were with Marlow as well. Marlow is this bundle of energy that just keeps you going, so it was a lot of fun being in scenes with them. It was always laughs, jokes, TikTok dances that I could never do. It was just so fun being in the presence of people just enjoying themselves while working. It was fun.
Slumberland is a huge special effects movie. Weruche, you were involved in many of these scenes, especially the chase in the middle. Did this present a different set of challenges for you as an actor?
Opia: It did initially, but I managed to find a way to just focus on what the character was doing so I was thinking more of the performance rather than the VFX. And I thought that because that’s all I could be responsible for at that point. I was like, “I’m going to just focus.” I trusted Francis and the whole VFX team because I was like, “Yeah, this has to be good.” So I was just going to mind my business and focus on giving the character as much as I can. As we see, it was incredible. It did more than my imagination did, so it’s good times.
On the surface, this movie is geared toward children. But there are messages of grief and resilience that will resonate with adults. What can people of all ages take away from Slumberland?
O’Dowd: Keep the adventure going. Age is just but a ladder to climb.
Opia: When the floods of life come, keep swimming.
Chandler: [Laughs] Yeah.
I’m going to have to steal some of these quotes.
Chandler: [Laughs] That’s three coffee mugs right there.
Slumberland premieres November 18 on Netflix.