Glass Onion: Where Else You’ve Seen Knives Out Breakout Janelle Monáe

Some audiences might be surprised that she walked away with Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, but Janelle Monáe has been killing it for years.

Janelle Monae in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Photo: Netflix

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is a crowd-pleasing, laugh-filled whodunit with a packed ensemble. The Rian Johnson sequel features a returning Daniel Craig as Southern gentleman detective Benoit Blanc, and this time he’s joined by fellow A-listers like Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, and Dave Bautista, as well as rising stars like Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., and Jessica Henwick. The Netflix film begins streaming just in time for the holidays, but many fans have already watched the mystery unfold during the film’s short theatrical run in November. 

The overwhelmingly positive feedback for Glass Onion singled out the heavy-hitting ensemble, but particularly heaped praise upon Janelle Monáe as Cassandra “Andi” Brand, a mysterious character whose presence is crucial to the film’s plot. No spoilers here, but Monáe delivers a finely tuned, layered performance that suggests the musician-turned-actress is continuing to level-up in front of the camera. If you’ve just finished Glass Onion and are wondering where you can see more of Monáe, we’ve got you covered.

Janelle Monáe started in the performing arts at a young age via the Coterie Theatre’s Young Playwrights’ Roundtable, where she expanded upon her love of musicals and artists like Lauryn Hill and Stevie Wonder and began writing musicals of her own. After high school, she began studying musical theater at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Fearing that the formal training would soften her edge and sand down her own originality, she dropped out and moved to Atlanta to attend Perimeter College at Georgia State University. There she began writing and performing her own music.

After attracting the attention of Outkast’s Big Boi with her recorded music, Monáe featured on Outkast’s 2006 album, Idlewild. Big Boi referred Monáe to Bad Boy Records founder Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, who signed her to the label in 2006. Monáe began work on a concept album inspired by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and the works of Alfred Hitchcock and Philip K. Dick. The album was about a messianic figure to the android community of Metropolis, titled The ArchAndroid. The album was released in 2010, garnering acclaim for Monáe. And in 2011 she featured on the song “We Are Young” by the band fun., earning Monáe three Grammy nominations, including Record of the Year. 

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Two follow-up albums, 2013’s The Electric Lady and 2018’s Dirty Computer, continued the trend with more critical acclaim, awards nominations, and comparisons to artists such as Prince, Janet Jackson, and David Bowie. Like those artists, Monáe naturally gravitated toward acting roles as well. Her first feature film was a voice acting performance in 2014’s Rio 2, but she followed that up with appearances in two of 2016’s biggest, most prestigious films, Moonlight and Hidden Figures. In the former, she portrayed Teresa, the girlfriend of Juan (Mahershala Ali), a drug dealer who was more than his profession. The two took on paternal roles to the film’s central character, and Ali won an Oscar for his performance. In Hidden Figures, Monáe played Mary Jackson, a NASA mathematician and (later) an aerospace engineer.

Supporting roles in films like Robert Zemeckis’ Welcome to Marwan (2018), the biographical film about the life of Harriet Tubman, Harriet (2019), and The Glorias (2020), ab out Gloria Steinman, followed, but Monáe was giving a chance to lead a film in 2020’s Antebellum. The horror film follows a 21st century African-American woman played by Monáe who wakes to find herself mysteriously in a Southern slave plantation from which she must escape. While the film received mixed reviews, Monáe’s performance was widely considered to be one of the best aspects of the film. That same year, Monáe appeared in Season 2 of the Amazon Prime series Homecoming as lead character Jackie, a veteran who awakes one morning with no memory of her past life. Once again, critics were impressed with the range of Monáe’s performance.

As of now, there aren’t any films and TV shows on Monáe’s docket for 2023, but according to Atlantic Records’ CEO Craig Kallman, we might be receiving the follow-up to Dirty Computer. No matter what Monáe does next, you can expect impressive things. Monáe’s talents are like an onion, but certainly not a glass one.