Lupita Nyong’o on the “painstaking work” required to master her leading roles in ‘Us’: ‘I felt like I might just go crazy”
Nyongo's performance in the horror flick is a revelation.
Whether or not you fully understand what’s going on in Us, the latest horror flick from Jordan Peele; the mesmerizing, masterful talent of Lupita Nyong’o is undeniable.
TheGrio caught up with the Oscar-nominated actress who took on to roles in the film that has the whole world buzzing to find out what it took to take on such an ambitious project.
“I feel very blessed to live in a time that Jordan Peele exists in, that Ryan Coogler exists in, that Steve McQueen exists in, that Mira Nair exists in…J.J. Abrams–all these directors that I’ve worked with who have given me these very unique opportunities. With Jordan in particular, he gave me two three-dimensional women to play in one movie and he offered me an opportunity to advocate for one perspective and then advocate for the exact opposite perspective, which only breeds empathy,” she says.
“I think that’s what this film is about. It’s about recognizing the monster within ourselves and that there’s a duality to everything and it’s in the suppression of a side of ourselves that brings about destruction in the world you know. So that kind of thematic relevance, to be housed by me and Winston [Duke] and this Wilson family, it’s an honor and I feel so lucky. This really does feel like one of the largest feats of my career.”
“It was painstaking work to prepare for these two roles, she says. “I felt like I might just go crazy because I had the time it usually takes me to prep for one character to prepare for two. And the fact that they are often in the same scene and see the world in exactly opposite ways… I mean it was just crazy.”
Nyong’o went above and beyond to prepare for the roles, and her efforts certainly paid off. As Adelaide Wilson, she was completely convincing as a typical wife and mother haunted by a trauma in her past.
“It took being very deliberate physically, emotionally, psychologically to create their vocabulary so that I could interchange them on demand. Finding the physicality of each character was key. Adelaide had a history in dance, so I took ballet classes, which was no easy feat. Ballerinas are really really strong. We think about them as being light and elevated. But in order to do that, they have to have such a grounding, such a strong relationship with the ground. So just having that relationship with the world you know of a dancer was very very helpful for that character,” she explains.
When she took on the terrifying role of “Red” her approach was dramatically different.
“For Red, Jordan had described her as ‘queen’ and ‘cockroach.’ So for me, that was about a stillness–a regality, but also the element of surprise that a cockroach can have when it scurries and skitters, you don’t know what direction it’s going to go, and the menace of a cockroach as well. Those things really opened up those roles for me, and then just doing extensive research and really grounding them in reality, each on their own.”
Us is in theaters now.
Check out the full interview above.