On March 8, Us premiered at South by Southwest and early reactions teased a bizarre and horrifying cinematic experience. In the film, a family vacations in Santa Cruz, California, where they come face to face with doppelgänger versions of themselves. Us marks Peele’s second feature film, this coming after the pop culture sensation Get Out released in 2017. In that film, Peele addressed racial tensions and psychological trauma, which resulted in a unique first-time viewing experience for many viewers. In addition, Peele won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. For Us, Peele cast Nyong'o and MCU star Winston Duke, both of whom studied acting together at Yale University. In 2013, Nyong'o won an Academy Award for her supporting performance in 12 Years a Slave, and now she’s stunning peers and audiences with her tethered voice in Us.
In a new Variety clip, the Us cast recalls their first reactions to Nyong'o's tethered voice, while the actress herself explains the backstory. According to Nyong'o, the doppelgänger character’s voice was inspired by a condition called “Spasmodic Dysphonia,” in which muscle spasms cause breaks and interruptions in one’s speech patterns. The condition is caused by emotional or physical trauma, and Nyong'o explains how she studied the “irregular flow of air.” For Us, she worked with an ear, nose, and throat doctor, a vocal therapist, and a dialect coach. Nyong'o also notes that her tethered voice in Us is “inspired by the condition, but it’s not an exact replica of the condition.” She also comments about vocal preparations, such as warming up her voice and cooling it down for the dual Us roles. Check out the full clip below.
Unsurprisingly, the psychological aspects of Us have caused a stir since the film premiered just days ago. In our recent review, we explain that Us manages to be “funny, freaky, and thrilling all at once,” and for those concerned about the scares and violence, we’ve detailed everything you need to know, as Us is indeed a horror film. As for Nyong'o, she starred in the 2019 comedy horror Little Monsters, and will reprise her role as Maz Kanata in J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode IX. Nyong'o previously appeared in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi as the CGI character.
Regardless of one’s reaction to Us, there’s no denying that Lupita Nyong'o is one of cinema’s most talented actresses. Furthermore, the Us pairing with her former classmate and Black Panther co-star Winston Duke allows Peele to capitalize on their natural charisma. Moving forward, it'll be exciting to see which directors Nyong'o decides to work with, and how she differentiates her characters with distinct personality traits. For now, enjoy Nyong'o's tethered performance in Us.