Lupita Nyong'o Chooses CGI Over BFF

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Lupita Nyong’o has been a lightning rod for speculation.

Though she's a wonderfully talented actress who brings a star quality to any role that she plays, Nyong'o has seen her most popular work take place behind the veil of CGI. Rather than taking the traditional Hollywood path of playing, you know, a human being on a screen, she's played both a thousand-year-old space gremlin (Maz Kanata in Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and a wolf mother (Raksha in The Jungle Book).

Both roles are critical, both films are massive, but unless you knew that it was Nyong’o behind the mo-cap suit, you’d have know way of knowing who she was.

Now, she’s starring in a play, Eclipsed, that takes her away from the big screen.

Nyong’o wrote about her choices in an essay published to Lenny Letter early Tuesday. She discussed her response to a journalist asking why she chose a role in a “small play” (Eclipsed is about “five extraordinary women trapped by a rebel commander during the Liberian civil war” and it's playing on Broadway) and how she decided that she would do what she wanted to do rather than what she should do.

Her argument centers around tropes vs. archetypes. Nyong'o writes that often women of color are cast as the sidekick, the best friend, the jester. These are all tropes and often written without much depth or internal motivation.

An archetype is similar, but generated from a deep mythical well of human consciousness.

“I don't mind inhabiting an archetype if it has been given life and interiority,” Nyong’o writes. “I love the idea of people of color participating in mythical, magical stories, whether that's as a hero, villain, sage, or sorceress. Or all of the above!”

She goes on to say that the depth of the writing is what matters more than the specific role.

“Even more important than the genre are the intention of the author, what story is being told, and the power of the emotional journey of the characters,” she writes. “In Eclipsed, Danai [Gurira, the play’s author, who also plays Michonne on The Walking Dead] has blessed us with five such journeys. None of these women are tropes. They are battling real demons, living with difficult decisions in an all-too-real world stricken with the trauma of war.”

But her greatest motivation is to be a part of the conversation about the roles that she plays.

“Of course, I am not opposed to playing lead roles,” Nyong’o writes. “I don't want to be overly cautious; I want to take risks, to try my hand at stories that thrill and terrify me. Partly because of the conversation the industry has been having about women and racial and cultural representation, I have recently decided to participate more fully in the development of roles I choose in the future.”

Eclipsed
runs only through June 19.

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