BB Exclusive: Lupita Nyong’o Chats With Us About Queen Of Katwe, Her Acting Career, & Self DoubtSeptember 22, 2016 - Author: admin - Comments are closed
BeautifulBallad had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o whilst she was out on the road promoting her new film Queen Of Katwe. In our interview, besides being super charming, Lupita chatted with us about her role as matriarch Nakku Harriet, working with director Mira Nair, and so much more.
To read our conversation click below the jump. Queen Of Katwe opens in theaters on September 23.
On the most challenging aspect of the film: “Playing a mother. That was very challenging and the reason why I took this role… I don’t have any children, so what do I know about taking care of four? But I love that kind of challenge, something that asks me to do something completely different from the thing I’d just done and this was it.”
On what she prepared to play Harriet: “My go to thing is research, you know. We as human beings, we underestimate our ability to empathize and consider someone else’s circumstances, you know. And as an actor I get to exercise that muscle all the time. I had Harriett, the real Harriett, to go to in order to create and build this character. I went to Uganda about two, about three weeks to a month before we started filming in order to sit with her and get to know her, get to experience the culture, the environment, the neighborhoods where these things happened and really get a sense of place, time, and character.”
On the pressure to play a real life character: “It’s not very often you get to play someone and then play their recent history. I mean these events were transpiring in the 2000s…So there is pressure for sure, but you know, as an actor you always have to remember that there is no way you are actually going to be this person and just being aware of that reconciling fact that this is going to be a representation rather than a recreation of the person is important…So you have to craft it in a way that we can understand the larger themes within the duration of the film you have.”
On finally working with director, Mira Nair: “She is a director that I have always admired and respected and I’ve been dying to work with her so when she emailed me and said ‘I wrote this with you in mind’, I mean, it was a dream come true and then to learn that it is something so homegrown, in a place that she has lived for over twenty-seven years…And a story out of Africa we don’t get to see very often, especially not on this kind of platform, I mean it was a no brainer, I had to do it.”
On the theme of the film: “Never being dissatisfied by where you’re from or where you are. I think that that is a theme in this movie because one of the fears Harriet has for her child is that she will be exposed to a world other than the one she comes from and then not be accepted there and then be unable to return to the world she has come from and be left in limbo. And that is a real fear and one that can really stunt you from striving for more and I think that this film is about just the encouragement to stay the path and strategize like on a chess board to figure out what your obstacles are, figure out where you want to go, and figure out the best way to get there.”
On her own obstacles: “Self doubt…Because I am an actor I am constantly facing with beginning again. When I take on a new role it doesn’t matter how successful the one before was, this is totally different and I am a beginner and I have to apply my craft to a new process. It’s about gaining the confidence within that process and so it always begins with self doubt, but what I have learned is to not let self doubt stop me from trying to do the thing that I am trying to do. It’s just one of the things, one of the hurdles you have to jump over and if it appears again in the horizon you jump over it again, but it is a thing to work through rather than a thing to stop you from being able to move forward.”
On choosing roles: “I made a promise to myself when I was in grad school that I would always lead with my instinct and that is a thing that I always go back to. What is my inner compass telling me to do? When I won the Academy Award for the very first role I played out of school, that created a pressure within me and within my entire world. There was a pressure that I was aware of and also a fear of ‘what next’…I had to get back to why I am doing what I’m doing. It’s not for the accolades, it’s for the love of the art. It’s for the love of the thing that I do, which is investigating human nature and that means allowing myself the opportunity to fail because failure, like we learn in this film, failure is not the end of the road, it’s just a stop on a path to something else.”
On her reaction to the script: “I was less than ten pages in and I was weeping. Something like this just hadn’t crossed my desk until that point since Twelve Years A Slave. Something layered, complex, and deeply human and about this African girl really saving herself and her family through such a lofty dream, such an impractical dream of becoming a chess master. It was a true story on top of everything, I was just like ‘I just died and went to African heaven’. I just couldn’t say no to it…It was a no brainer and then Mira was doing it and it was right across the border from my home, I was just moved beyond belief that this was happening. Then it was happening with Disney, which has such a wide reach and is such a huge platform, this small story, this intimate tale we don’t get to see intimacy from Africa. It was an oasis, it was an oasis.”
Queen Of Katwe will open in theaters this Friday, September 23.
*This has been edited for clarity and time.