This week’s Sunday Spotlight shines on actress Lupita Nyong’o, a star in the newly released film “12 Years a Slave,” whose performance has already created Oscars buzz. The movie chronicles the story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped and sold back into slavery in the 19th century.
“I read the script before my very first audition and I was immediately taken by it. I had never really read anything like that,” Nyong’o told ABC’s Ron Claiborne.
At the time, Nyong’o, who was born in Mexico and raised in Kenya, was about to graduate from the Yale School of Drama. And despite the fact that she had never been in a Hollywood movie before, she was cast as Patsey, a young slave living on the same Louisiana plantation to which Northrup was sent.
Nyong’o describes the complexity of her character as something “that really sat with me and resonated because she was this zealous woman, genial, pleasant tempered. But really she wanted her death.”
“I knew I had to do her justice and to play her with dignity and integrity,” she said.
The film shines a light on this often ignored perspective in the history of slavery.
“I hadn’t seen slavery in this way, where’s it’s really about an exploration of the institution of slavery,” Nyong’o explained, calling the film “something that was going to be history in the making.”
She went on to explain that “12 Years a Slave” is not only about adding to the history books, but about reopening dialogue around slavery.
“It’s about us being able to talk about these things honestly and openly.”
Although the conversations surrounding this film will not be light, Nyong’o hopes the movie has a positive impact on audiences.
“I hope audiences experience an openheartedness from watching this movie. I certainly did and I know a lot of people who have,” she said. “You leave this movie and you just want to hug someone. You want to be nicer.”
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