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Vanessa Estelle Williams on the cultural significance of ‘Candyman’ and why she’s not into scary stuff

By Lisa Respers France, CNN

Vanessa Estelle Williams may be killing it in horror projects these days, but don’t expect her to pull out a Ouija board anytime soon.

The actress is reprising her role from the original 1992 “Candyman” film in the new sequel and guest starred on the TV series “American Horror Stories.”

But she told CNN she prefers her scares to be more thriller like.

“I tell people, ‘I do horror but I don’t watch that much cause I’m a scaredy cat,'” Williams said. “I’ll watch it, you know, in the daytime with some friends, but as a child particularly I was haunted by the devil.”

Not literally, just the idea of evil. Which is part of the reason why Williams is so convincing returning as Anne-Marie McCoy.

This time the setting is a luxury loft condo in Cabrini, now gentrified beyond recognition, and her character’s son Anthony (portrayed by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is an artist who becomes obsessed with the hook-handed murderer.

The Candyman in the new film is as much a representation of Black rage against racism as he is a supernatural boogeyman.

The horrors of discrimination and inequality are common themes for the film’s co-writer and producer Jordan Peele and the tale gets a new framing by him and director Nia DaCosta.

Williams quotes Peele as saying, “At the center of ‘Candyman’ is the eternal dance between the monster and victim and the racialized history of this country.”

“It’s the hashtags of those names of brothers and people who’ve been killed by racial violence before there were hashtags,” Williams said. “So, it’s the intergenerational violence against black people… In remaking it and reframing it as black people in charge of the narrative, we reclaim it and we get to heal.”

The actress said she recognizes how her character, as the mother of a Black man, stands as a representation of Black women who have seen the danger that can await their children.

That is made even more poignant by the fact that Williams is now herself of a mother of two sons who have grown from cute little boys into what some people consider a threat.

“So, those are real dynamics as a black mother that we have to face,” she said. “And I came back to them, to the movie, to this character, with all of that lived experience.”

Williams is staying busy these days.

In addition to “Candyman,” in theaters now, she also has a role in the second season of the Showtime series “The L Word: Generation Q.”

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