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A pop star’s killer fan runs amok in ‘Swarm.’ Why it’s ‘not a work of fiction’

· Mar 17, 2023
Prime Video's "Swarm," from Donald Glover and "Atlanta" scribe Janine Nabers, focuses on the dangers of stan culture, obsessive fandoms and being chronically online.The limited series, now streaming, stars Dominique Fishback as Dre, a a member of the "Killer Bees," a fandom that may ca

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Warning: This story contains spoilers about Prime Video's "Swarm." There will be another warning before key plot points are divulged.

Prime Video's "Swarm," from Donald Glover and "Atlanta" scribe Janine Nabers, focuses on the dangers of stan culture, obsessive fandoms and being chronically online.

The limited series, now streaming, stars Dominique Fishback as Dre, a a member of the "Killer Bees," a fandom that may call to mind a certain other Beyhive.

After a tragic accident leaves her alone in the world, Dre develops a taste for murder and drives across the country to be closer to the object of her affection, the pop star Ni'Jah (an obvious stand-in for Beyoncé).

Many of the events depicted, from pop culture scandals involving star-studded elevator brawls to splashy, ripped-from-the-headlines murders — are based on true events that took place in the 2010s.

"We did research for months to basically find events within a 2 1/2 year period that we could put our main character into," said Nabers.

"So it's really not a work of fiction.

We've taken real internet rumors, real murders and combined them in the narrative of our main character, Dre.

Not much of it is fabricated." The Times caught up with Nabers and Fishback to discuss that improbable ending.

Janine Nabers: Ni'Jah represents a sense of purpose, a sense of acceptance.

And I think she represents Dre.

They come from the same neighborhood, the same city, both Black women, they have their very particular relationships with their sisters.

There's like a parallel track in a lot of ways with these characters.

So the fact that she identifies with this woman so much and looks to her as this kind of godlike figure gives Dre meaning and a sense of understanding.

Dominique Fishback: Ni'Jah represents somebody who happens to have the language and ability to express it in a way that Dre felt heard.

And then meeting Marissa, to find somebody that equally loves this person as much as she did, it just solidified that relationship.

She's hope, beauty and independence.

Warning: Spoilers about key plot points of "Swarm" follow.

Fishback: They say it's a thin line between love and hate.

I think that Dre had a lot of love inside and a lot of grief and didn't have the right channels to process it.

And once she lost Marissa, I think it got muddled inside of her.

So I think that "bloodlust" was just the desire to feel something.

Nabers: Episode 6 is a step-out episode that allows us to intellectualize some of the stuff that we've seen in a way that we probably haven't intellectualized before.

The documentary is very purposeful.

Like this series is [billed as being] "not a work of fiction": You're watching actors re-create events that happened [within] a 2 1/2 year period.

The series ends with Dre finally making it to a Ni'Jah concert and rushing the stage.

Security moves to apprehend her, but Ni'Jah, whose face has been replaced by Marissa's, intervenes and invites her to sing to the crowd.

They leave together in her waiting limo and Ni'Jah envelops Dre in a warm embrace.

Nabers: When Donald pitched the idea to me, the ending was very much something that he saw visually in his head — her getting in the car with this woman and driving off — and we knew that we were going to have Chloe [Bailey, who has Ni'Jah]'s face on her.

I think that ending is very bittersweet, but also very troubling because we know what that moment is in history: In 2018, [when] a person runs onstage and gets tackled.

We don't know where that person is today.

Fishback: I think it was an interesting way to end it.

What happens to her? Does she go to jail? Is she still on the run? Nabers: You look at all of the things she's done to get to where she is, and it's a devastating moment because you don't know the reality of it.

You don't know where she really is in time and space.

We wanted to give that very ambiguous ending where people can put their own thought process onto it if they want to.

Nabers: Because they're one and the same.

These two women were the catalyst for her story.

It begins with Chloe and it ends with Ni'Jah.

Fishback: "Deserve." That word is so hard because, essentially, who decides who deserves what? I think inherently as people, we're all deserving of love, right? So I don't know.

She's done pretty horrible things.

Nabers: I think it's subjective if it's a happy ending or not.

Obviously she's happy in that moment, but is it fleeting? Is it real? And who is God? God, to Dre, is Ni'Jah.

So I think it could be open to anyone's interpretation what that means.

Nabers: This is a limited series.

This is a story that has a very clear beginning, middle and end, so this is it.

Fishback: I feel really proud of Dre, of the humor that I got to exhibit with this role.

She really takes on different personas every episode, so it's like a one-woman show on-screen.

I think I got what I came for and we can lay that to rest..