Getting to know Black Phillip: An interview with 'The Witch's' Daniel Wahab Chaudhry
Shortly after The Witch hit theaters, I revealed exclusively that the terrifying goat known as Black Phillip was voiced by Daniel Wahab Chaudhry, a bewitching male model who originally hails from Toronto. You're welcome, America! But I wondered: what lies behind the sensuous voice and smoldering good looks of this dark-haired newcomers? In an effort to get to know him better -- and with The Witch's theatrical re-release in theaters this past weekend -- Chaudhry submitted himself to my intense questioning about his role in the film, how he personally interprets that controversial ending and what he has planned for the future.
Note: the below interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
1. How did you hear about the Black Phillip role?
At the time I only had a modeling agent who thankfully knew I was studying and had a knack for acting. She lined up an audition for me through a few of her contacts and that’s how I ended up auditioning for the role.
2. Were there a lot of auditions involved?
Just one…for me at least. I'm sure the major roles in the film went through several reads. A few hours after my audition I got a call from my agent telling me that the director, Robert Eggers, is flying into town the next week and wants to meet face to face! So it was fairly quick.
3. What was the direction you received while recording the voice?
I can’t remember exactly what Robert was whispering to me, since we did shoot this well over a year ago, but I remember him walking with me to set and I was super nervous. He helped me loosen up by going over the meaning of the scene. He was quite relaxed about my choice of delivery. I sort of just went for it the same way I had practiced and he liked it. He was already super detailed about every aspect, so everything he wanted was already happening. I remember thinking, “this is my first job, and nobody’s saying anything. Maybe I'm just doing a really bad job.” But that wasn't the case, and here we are!
4. What was it like working with Robert Eggers?
Robert is very understanding whilst being super straightforward with what he wants. To be honest, I respected him even before we started working. When I first met Robert in Toronto, he invited me to his office. We had a long discussion about random things, movies, and what sort of work we’d love to be doing. He shared with me his background, and about everything that lead up to him shooting this film. Let’s just say if he ever offers me work on another one of his projects, my immediate response would be, “hell yeah!”
5. Are you a horror fan generally?
This sounds silly, but I think watching horror films is a lot of fun! I’m not necessarily scared of the films, rather I’m more excited about who the villain is and what they have to offer, and how the characters decide to survive…or not. I like to play the “who’s next” game.
6. What did you think of the film?
As I watched it, I viewed it differently than I had expected. The film has a lot to do with womanhood, rebellion and female power. Still to this day, women in power tend to threaten the public. Now translate that to 400 years ago, and you've got what some called a “Witch”. There is a lot hidden in it, but easily missed if you’re not paying attention. It’s quite a smart film, depending on how you look at it. It’s not some film about a witch with a broom in the middle of the woods. I actually very much enjoyed it. It was something fresh. I'm a huge cinematography geek, so shout out to Jarin Blaschke! Nothing like the horror films you see these days or are used to, but I enjoyed how it went back to the root of “what” can scare and frighten people, and that’s what stuck with me. I guess it’s no wonder that horror legend himself, Stephen King, tweeted about it!
7. How did you interpret the ending? It seems to be perceived differently depending on who you speak to.
Apart from outright freaky…I took it as Thomasin following her beliefs and dreams on being a liberated woman, but for her it comes with an immense price. Let’s be honest, if you've seen the movie, she goes through a lot. But in order to become who she wants to be (or for that matter, discover) without her parents forcing her otherwise, or even selling her to another family, she had to, at the time -— with what was at stake -— sell her soul. It’s quite gutting.
8. Have you received any other voiceover offers since I outed you to the masses?
Haha, thanks for that! It did lead to a lot of people knowing who I was. I won’t mind if any future work be related to, “hey that’s the Black Phillip guy!” The whole voice-over part of the industry is pretty cool, and I would love to voice an animated movie someday.
9. Anything else in the works for you?
I have to be cliché, and say I'm not at liberty to discuss any details yet. But you’ll be the first to know!
The Witch is now playing in select theaters. Here's the NSFW trailer for the re-release: