WATCH: ‘Us’ star Winston Duke on tackling race issues and the horror genre: “I never saw myself”
Only a few days remain until Jordan Peele‘s latest masterpiece, Us, hits theaters and TheGrio sat down with Winston Duke to find out what it took to tackle such an ambitious and awe-inspiring film.
The actor who stole our hearts in Black Panther reunited with his former costar, Lupita Nyong’o for the horror flick that required both of them to play two different roles. Duke’s natural charm and knack for reliability made him the ideal choice to play Gabe Wilson, a sweet and silly husband and father looking to get some R&R on a family vacation.
“Winston doesn’t know it, but he basically is Gabe,” Peele says. “He’s a fun mash-up of how I originally saw the character and all the qualities that he Brought to the role. You can’t separate the two.”
Duke is terrifying as Gabe’s Doppelgänger, Abraham. “Abraham is a terrifying presence,” says Peele. “He’s big, hulking, single-minded and psychopathic.”
According to Winston Duke, his first-read of the script left him speechless.
“I sat there for a long time just thinking about what it all meant…The thing that I take away from this is that, there was no real existence where I didn’t do this movie after reading the script. Right? There’s no dimension where Winston’s like–‘No I’m going to go somewhere else.’ I had to do it after I read the script. It was bold and it was like, to me the best script that I had read at around that time, and I had to,” he says
Duke admits that he never expected to star in a horror film, considering the genre isn’t known for telling Black stories.
“It was out of place I felt attached to. I never felt attached to the genre. I never saw myself. People like me always died. You know black people are like the first casualty the first you know sacrifice to the genre you know in the body count and the blood-letting. So I was like I’m not going to find my space…That’s not where I’m going to really excel until really watching ‘Get Out.’ Essentially the genre has a strong history of social commentary but it never really trickled back to us,” he explains.
“It never like wrapped around to blackness…’Get Out’ was the first time it was it did that for me. And knowing that I’d be walking into this with the creator of something like that made me feel really good.”
Duke also offered his own thoughts on the underlying issues of race that are at the core of Us.
“I think as long as you have Black characters anywhere because our skin is so politicized it always becomes a political statement about race no matter what… I think that is the statement about how this movie doesn’t let anyone off as long as you buy into the construct of the American dream, you then become indicted in America’s sins but the construct of what you’re talking about…But if you buy into the construct you also are attached to its sins. Now with all the sins of that, came knocking at your door would you be prepared for it to have your face? It’s now actually you,” he explains.
“Whether you understand it or not whether you participate willfully or indirectly. And we all do participate indirectly with our meat consumption with our cell phones and the things that we support. You know what I mean? The corporations we support our need for oil. I mean like everything we all participate. So are you prepared for it to look like you, and what would that mean? And that’s ‘Us.’ We are the monsters that we create. You know so who is the monster is it Frankenstein or Frankenstein’s monster. So I think that’s really where it lives.”
Us hits theaters March 22.