Milanka Brooks still remembers the sensation from the first time she stepped on a stage. It was moments of adrenaline pumping, emotions heightened, and one of the most profound moments of her life. She was only a teenager, but she had the power to make people feel something, to get them laughing, and she knew that there was nothing else she could imagine herself doing with her life. Acting wasn’t just her passion, it was her way of living, and continues to be to this day.
Throughout her career, Brooks has exemplified her passion with many memorable performances. Her work on the acclaimed television series Benidorm and the hit TV movie Do Not Disturb made audiences all over the world laugh out loud and become taken away. Most recently, she once again showed off her comedic chops in the immensely popular Netflix original series Black Mirror.
“Working with Milanka was a true blessing. She always brought great energy, professionalism and talent to the set. In an environment that can quite easily become stressful, Milanka was incredible in elevating the mood. I’ve worked with a lot of actors and I feel what stands out about Milanka for me is her amazing comedic timing. You can’t really teach that to the level she’s at! You’ve either got it or you haven’t and Milanka has definitely got it,” said Osy Ikhile, who played Nate Packer in the episode alongside Brooks.
Set in a world only minutes from our own, Black Mirror unveils how modern technologies can backfire and be used against their makers, every episode set in a slightly different reality with different characters combating different types of technologies. In the first episode of the fourth season of the show, titled USS Callister, a woman wakes up on a Star Trek-esque ship where the crew praise their all-knowing and fearless captain.
“I had always known that Black Mirror was a successful show with a loyal fan base, but I never could have imagined the awesome response that we had to USS Callister. Pretty much all creative departments have been nominated and/or won awards, from CAS Awards in Los Angeles to the BAFTAs here in London. It’s so wonderful to see that the show has been so well received, and everyone is subsequently receiving their dues. It may be one episode from a series, but the hard work and attention to detail that goes in to each episode really does make them stand-alone films. I can forever say I played ‘the blue alien’ in one of Black Mirror’s most triumphant shows to date. I’m truly honored,” said Brooks.
The “blue alien” character is named Elena Tulaska, the Head of Security of the USS Callister. It is her job to protect the ship from enemies, like Valdack played by Billy Magnussen. Elena, and the rest of the Callister crew, are subject to Captain Daly’s (played by Jesse Plemons) wrath at all times. The six characters are trapped inside his offline version of the virtual reality game “Infinity” and cannot escape. They are prisoners of his poisoned mind and are bullied and tormented by him and his might as captain until they plot against him to break through the real-life “Infinity Christmas” update patch and free themselves.
Elena is very dry-witted and quite nonchalant to everyone, especially Robert Daly in Callister Inc. (the real world). She is indifferent to people and only really finds pleasure in flicking through the dating app on her phone, which is used in episode 4 of the season, Hang the DJ, as a hidden egg. Brooks found a lot of enjoyment finding a weary dryness to her lines and interactions with other characters.
“I love the depths that Charlie Brooker will go to in his writing, he’s not afraid to provoke. On the surface we are living in a world all-too-similar to that of Star Trek, and yet when you look beyond the facade what we’re looking at is really an internet bully who struggles with life on the outside and so has to torment his peers on the inside. This type of world already exists, sadly. You can also look at the episode as shining light on an autocrat and his lack of compassion for people and their feelings and human rights. Both themes are fair and current, and what makes Charlie such a fascinating writer is that he leaves a lot of these decisions to us, the audience, to determine,” Brooks described.
Becoming Elena was quite a process, not just in learning lines and figuring out how to play the character, but also in the makeup and wardrobe department. Each morning when Brooks arrived on set, it would take nine people to get her ready, and at the end of shooting, five people to get her out of the costume. The blue spray paint would not always come off, and she would find herself with a unique color of sweat after a workout, green ink would often leak from her ear. This just added to the fun experience for the actress.
“Too often this would grab the attention of one of the guests in the sauna/steam room. They would mention to me in a slightly nervous way that I have ‘green stuff coming down my neck’, to which I’d either thank them and assure them I was ok, or sometimes I’d pretend I didn’t know what it was and would carry this on for a while until I eventually told them I was working on something that involved some color on my ears. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone I was a blue alien for a year after all. It was one of the biggest secrets I’ve ever had to keep,” she said.
So, what’s next for this celebrated actress? Check her out in Disney’s upcoming feature film Patrick, in theatres next month.