For fans of Jordan Peele’s socially aware comedy in series like Key & Peele, seeing Get Out raises a fundamental question: Why did he look to the horror genre to make his directorial debut and his statement on American race relations, rather than an outright comedy?

“The reason I made it a horror film is that it’s my favorite genre,” Peele told Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. this month at Deadline’s annual The Contenders event at the DGA Theater. “I actually started wanting to make a horror thriller, and in asking myself what that would look like, eventually I got to what Get Out is, which is, in many ways, my greatest fears on film.”

Looking back at the path to getting Get Out produced, Peele admits he never fully believed the film would get made. “Honestly, I thought: There’s too many things that you just can’t do in film— the finale where a black man kills a white family in cold blood, and the audience is supposed to be like, ‘Yeah!’ ” Peele joked. “When you watch this movie, I think that’s the power of story. It’s one of the few things that encourages empathy because it allows us to see through others’ eyes.”

“If I could whittle the point of the movie — what I was trying to say — into one sentence, I wouldn’t be able to,” he said. “That’s why I had to make the movie. It was more complex than that.”

Check out the conversation above.