Just as remarkable as Ejiofor’s performance is the portrayal by Fassbender of the maniacal Epps, a monster far more complex than anything the Grimm Brothers ever dreamed up.
“Epps is psychotic, for sure, but there are various elements to his sickness,” says Fassbender, who previously worked with McQueen on “Hunger” and “Shame.” “He’s a plantation owner obsessed with being on top of it all, so there isn’t a day that goes by where the slaves are working on the field and he isn’t watching them. On the one day of the week when they’re off, he can’t be without them. He goes into the slave quarters and drags them into the main house to play music and dance with them. He has a dependency on them that goes beyond economics: He has an emotional connection with them, too.
“His relationship with Solomon is more complicated. He’s threatened by Solomon, even though he can’t put his finger on it. He suspects Solomon is a much higher intellect than him, so he tries to destroy Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o), a young slave Solomon has befriended. That is Epps’ way of trying to get over his insecurities. But he only ends up intensifying it.”