Lupita Nyong’o is a Kenyan-Mexican actress, who has taken the world by storm in recent years. After graduating from the Yale School of Drama, she starred in her first feature film 12 Years a Slave, which led her to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Following that, she joined the Star Wars Cinematic Universe with her motion caption portrayal of space pirate Maz Kanata in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. She will now be portraying the role of Nakia in the upcoming Marvel’s Black Panther.
Screen Rant got a chance to chat with Lupita Nyong’o on press day, where we discussed how it feels to be apart of a movie that is a cultural experience, how essential it is that there are strong female characters involved in Black Panther, and where can we see Maz Kanata next in the Star Wars universe.
Screen Rant: Lupita, this movie is incredibly moving. Amazing. Impactful. It’s everything that I’ve always wanted from a superhero movie and the Black Panther mainly. How does it feel to be a part of a movie that not only isn’t necessarily even about ticket sales but a cultural experience?
Lupita Nyong’o: It feels deeply, deeply meaningful. And so exciting. I just feel so blessed to be a part of this movie that has the potential to really inform and shift our popular culture. And the fact that it’s not only fly for days but it’s also got a really interesting message and something that makes you really think. This is a movie, a superhero movie, with a protagonist and an antagonist who both have very, very valid arguments. And the antagonist, Killmonger, is so empathetic you can you can definitely see his point of view.
SR: I did!
Lupita Nyong’o: Right?
SR: I did!
Lupita Nyong’o: And so it’s like this moral conundrum that you find yourself in. And just such an important, such important things for us to actually be putting words to and expressing and communicating with each other, and that’s so cool.
SR: And not only that, but this also has hugely strong positive female characters in it all throughout the film, that are supported by males. How does that feel? Because this is, like, a new era of films that we’re seeing here.
Lupita Nyong’o: I mean, it’s really encouraging and Wakanda is, it’s an aspirational nation. You know, films have an ability to show us where we’ve been, where we are and where we could be. And Wakanda is where we could be, where women are occupying their space in the future of a nation, they’re contributing equally and they’re allowed to realize their full potential and a woman’s power does not diminish a man’s. You know, you see Black Panther and right behind him is Okoye, the general [of the king’s bodyguards the Dora Milaje], and you know, both of them hold their power, both of them need each other and it’s really beautiful. And Nakia, his, you know, complicated situation, you know, he listens to her and the Queen Mother and Shuri, the head of technology, I mean women everywhere who are pivotal to this story.
SR: Now, Nakia, is one of the more complex [characters] and gets darker as we get through Black Panther lore in the comics. We see some seeds of that planted. Where do you want to see Nakia go next in the Black Panther storylines or even in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Lupita Nyong’o: You know. I really don’t know. You know, this film is a lot about introducing the world to Wakanda and to this this section of the Marvel Universe. And what happened in this film sets up something that will infiltrate the rest of the Marvel comic universe as we experience it in cinema. And I love the fact that Nakia in the comics becomes kind of you know, dark, if I may. And I’d be open to that.
SR: Alright, fun question: I’m a huge Star Wars fan and I have to ask, how did Maz Kanata get Luke’s lightsaber and will we see that explored in Episode 9 possibly?
Lupita Nyong’o: That’s complicated too. [Laughs]
SR: Fair enough. This is a brilliant movie, thank you so much for your time Lupita. Amazing job.
Lupita Nyong’o: Thank you!
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