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Taryn Manning opens up about backlash for playing title character in controversial Karen film

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Taryn Manning confessed she anticipated she would be criticized for playing the role of a racist White woman who terrorizes her new Black neighbors in the new BET film Karen. 

And with some critics labeling Karen as ‘damaging and irresponsible’ and ‘just a tactic to further divide us’, the Orange Is The New Black alum is now opening up about the depths of the backlash, especially on social media.  

‘I was, kind of, taking it on head first and, like, responding to people, you know, ‘I’m so sorry you feel that way,” she said in an interview with Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo for Mr. Warburton magazine.

‘I was attacked a lot by white women who felt that I had betrayed my own race.’

Controversies: Taryn Manning, 42, opened up about the backlash she's received for playing the role of Karen White: a racist White woman who terrorizes her new Black neighbors

Controversies: Taryn Manning, 42, opened up about the backlash she’s received for playing the role of Karen White: a racist White woman who terrorizes her new Black neighbors 

Despite the backlash and cyberbullying, Manning maintains that the film, and its topics and issues, needed to be told in order to kick start a change for the better in the U.S. and around the world. 

‘I know when a subject is so active, it’s like an active nerve right now, a lot of people aren’t taking it well. But the point was to illuminate something that needs to be brought to the forefront so we can start to change humanity,’ she shared, before elaborating on the origins that motivate people like her character Karen.

‘Some people are hard-wired, maybe they grew up in a household where they never even really had a chance to think for themselves. It’s just this repetitive generational cycle that they’re in — there’s that. There’s maybe an experience with someone like that, that scarred their frontal lobes, or it’s just a bad day.’ 

Backlash: 'I was attacked a lot by white women who felt that I had betrayed my own race,' Manning revealed about the social media backlash to playing a racist in an interview with Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo for Mr. Warburton magazine

Backlash: ‘I was attacked a lot by white women who felt that I had betrayed my own race,’ Manning revealed about the social media backlash to playing a racist in an interview with Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo for Mr. Warburton magazine

Sensitive subjects: Manning's character Karen appears to be friendly when she greets them upon their arrival. However, Karen's façade slowly reveals a bitter, jealous, angry, and racist woman who wants to remove the couple at any cost.

Sensitive subjects: Manning’s character Karen appears to be friendly when she greets them upon their arrival. However, Karen’s façade slowly reveals a bitter, jealous, angry, and racist woman who wants to remove the couple at any cost.

Cory Hardrict and Jasmine Burke play the couple terrorized by Manning's character

Cory Hardrict and Jasmine Burke play the couple terrorized by Manning’s character

The film centers of Malik and Imani, a young Black couple who move into a new home in the suburbs.

Seemingly being neighborly, Karen Drexler (played by Manning), a White woman, appears to be friendly when she greets them upon their arrival. However, Karen’s façade slowly reveals a bitter, jealous, angry, and racist woman who wants to remove the couple at any cost. 

Along with Manning, the cast includes Cory Hardrict, Jasmine Burke, Brandon Sklenar, Gregory Alan Williams, Veronika Bozeman and Dawn Halfkenny. 

When asked how she could portray such a vile character in Karen, Manning credited the director and her castmates.

‘The only way that I could play this character was by having my director and writer Coke Daniels as well as my costars Jasmin and Cory by my side, and that they knew that this is no depiction of who I am as a person.’          

High praise: Manning credited director Coke Daniels (pictured) and co-stars Cory Hardrict and Jasmine Burke with helping her portray such a vile character in Karen; they are seen at screening of the film on Atlanta, Georgia  on August 11

High praise: Manning credited director Coke Daniels (pictured) and co-stars Cory Hardrict and Jasmine Burke with helping her portray such a vile character in Karen; they are seen at screening of the film on Atlanta, Georgia  on August 11

While preparing for the film, Manning had to get into the ‘Red Zone,’ which Dr. Lombardo described as the mindset ‘where high levels of stress when fear takes over rational thinking’; and that a Red Zone is something we all have but have to ‘learn how to keep it in check.’

During the conversation, Manning revealed that her character ‘needed to get out of the red zone.’

She added, ‘I think that if she could be looking outside of herself and if she had any type of a higher conscious level or a friend, perhaps who actually cared about her, she would be able to have the skill set to say, ‘This is just a bad moment, it’s not really about him or them, this is just my stuff.” 

Red Zone: Manning revealed that her character 'needed to get out of the red zone', which is a mindset 'where high levels of stress when fear takes over rational thinking'

Red Zone: Manning revealed that her character ‘needed to get out of the red zone’, which is a mindset ‘where high levels of stress when fear takes over rational thinking’

Not long after the initial Karen trailer was released, fans took to social media and bashed writer-director Coke Daniels, calling Karen a blatant rip-off of Jordan Peele’s hit thriller film Get Out (2017). 

‘I don’t agree with the narrative that we ripped anything from Get Out; they’re two totally different films,’ Daniels told TMZ. 

‘Ours is about an entitled racist neighbor who tries to run the Black family out [of] the neighborhood [and] is about a mixed-race couple that goes to visit and meet the family.’

Along with her role of Tiffany ‘Pennsatucky’ Doggett in Orange Is The New Black (2013-2019), Manning has also gained recognition for her roles as Cherry in Sons of Anarchy (2008-2010), Nola in Hustle & Flow (2005) and Janeane in 8 Miles (2002). 

Rip-off: Critics on social media accused Karen of being a blatant rip-off of Jordan Peele's hit thriller film Get Out (2017); writer-director Coke Daniels denied the accusations

Rip-off: Critics on social media accused Karen of being a blatant rip-off of Jordan Peele’s hit thriller film Get Out (2017); writer-director Coke Daniels denied the accusations

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