Taryn Manning Talks 'Karen' Film Controversy and Learning Her Privilege on the Job (Exclusive)

The actress says it took about a year for writer-director Coke Daniels to convince her to join the production.

Coke Daniels' Karen strives to bring the reality of the titular phenom to the big screen and promote dialogue, and, judging from the conversation stirred from the released trailer, that is exactly what it drew. The film follows the basic concept of dealing with a "Karen" with a horror spin, stars Orange Is the New Black's Taryn Manning as the eponymous neighbor from hell, and ET is exclusively premiering a sneak peek ahead of the Sept. 3 release date. 

In the clip, Karen Drexler (Manning) is having dinner with her new neighbors, community activist Malik (Cory Hardrict) and his wife Imani (Jasmine Burke), and the couple's friends. Malik and his friends discuss the recent murder of a man by the police, with one of them pointedly noting that "Black lives matter." When Karen asks, "don't all lives matter," the conversation devolves into a debate on the police and Karen's microaggressions against Black people.

When she's told that her problem is that she thinks "all Black people are the same," Manning's Karen simply responds with, "the problem is that I can't tell the difference."

It's a fairly on-the-nose conversation that calls back the ire of critics who had issues with the film's trailer. Manning, who spoke with ET about her decision to join the project and what she hopes the film accomplishes, admits that she agrees with those who feel the subject is too big for a movie that "barely scratches the surface." 

"We're talking about something that runs so deep. There's really no words or motion picture that can put that out and that would be all of, it in one fell swoop," Manning told ET's Melicia Johnson. "This runs so deep, this is so wrong and so bad, for so long and didn't really even start on our soil. So it just goes on and on and on. And it's a horror thriller film. I would recommend people watch a documentary. I've learned so much because, one, I had to, it's my social responsibility that I become educated on way more than I ever realized and I'm horrified and also at the same time, I'm here to do what I can to help."

Manning admitted that she was initially hesitant to take the role, revealing that it took over a year for Daniels to convince her to agree. "I was like, I can do my best to try to help out something that I don't understand, because I don't," she explained, adding that she wants to play her part for a "greater cause."

She said she believes Daniels was motivated to hire her because of her "sincerity" while acting and her ability to disappear into a character. "My whole motto is keep it simple, keep it clear, most of all be sincere," she shared. "There's no Taryn and I don't judge my characters because if I did, then I wouldn't be able to play them. So I just play them sincerely for the greater cause of the motion picture." 

When it comes to drawing inspiration for her depiction, Manning shared that she watched YouTube videos and clippings of real-life "Karens" to piece together her character. In the film, Manning's Karen makes it her mission to wreak violent havoc on the lives of her new Black neighbors, but they refuse to back down even as her tactics get more severe. The couple is initially wary of their seemingly harmless neighbor -- even joking about the fact that they have a "white, entitled neighbor named Karen" -- before things get dangerous very quickly. Not only does Karen have a layered Supercuts bob, but she also has an in with the local police. Things get nasty quickly.  

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The 42-year-old actress shared that her preparation and work on the film allowed her to gain a new perspective and to learn a lot about her own privilege -- which she never thought she had before the project. 

"I grew up very humbly, I grew up in Section Eight housing in a mobile home park. So, I didn't realize even with all that...I do still have white privilege," she said. "And that's what I really learned through this, is that there is such a thing and it's real and I've learned that and it's hard to believe in a way, because so many of my friends are people of color, so many that I just can't believe there's such a divide still."

Later she added, "I feel like I did the film to invoke conversations at a dinner table, amongst us, you know? Hate on me all you want, I feel like I'm just a vessel of delivery. I hope it evokes conversation amongst friends and families and hopefully that'll evolve that situation within. One by one, you know?"

Karen premieres in theaters and is available for streaming on Sept. 3.