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Lupita Nyong’o on Reading Trevor Noah’s Memoir on the Black Panther Set and Needing to Play His Mom

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

Earlier this week, it was announced that Lupita Nyong’o would be starring in and co-producing a film adaptation of Trevor Noah’s bestselling memoir, Born a Crime. So it was cool to see Nyong’o on The Daily Show with Noah a day after the announcement was made, and they both seemed overjoyed to be working together in this way.

A bulk of the interview was about Black Panther of course, what with it continuing to dominate at the box office. Nyong’o talked about how she was happy to be the film’s “love interest,” because it was a love story unlike anything she’d ever gotten to play before. “What [director] Ryan [Coogler] really wanted [was] to tell a different story about love,” she explained. “In these kinds of genres the love interest is being pursued and she’s won in the end … Ryan wanted to free us from that and show us a different look — what it means to be in a relationship and have agency in that relationship.” She then enthuses about the fact that in Nakia and T’Challa’s relationship, you see them able to wrestle with larger, real-world issues together, rather than remain limited to the concerns of their private, intimate relationship.

She also talked about the importance of there being no straight hair on any of the women in the film. “It goes back to what is innately considered beautiful on the continent,” Nyong’o said. “Before the advent of the white man, black people were doing all kinds of things with their hair.” Things like extensions, she said, are nothing new, but “The rejection of kinks and curls did come with the white man.”

So, in fictional Wakanda, an African place untouched by colonialism, they are also untouched by Western beauty standards. So, no straight hair, thankyouverymuch.

Then, of course, Noah brought up the fact that Nyong’o would be playing the role of his mother, Patricia, in a film adaptation of his memoir, Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood. He said that “When we first spoke about this book, you were like, I love this book, I love this concept, I love everything about it.”

Nyong’o, however, felt the need to clarify just how much she loved it, saying:

“The truth is I was on the set of Black Panther I pre-ordered the book, got it, read it and I sent you an email. And I said, Trevor, please will you do me the honor of letting me play your mother.

His mom’s story is a pretty incredible one. In South Africa under apartheid, the country’s anti-miscegenation made the relationship between Noah’s black Xhosa mother and white Swiss-German father a literal crime, hence the title of the book. After his father died, his mother remarried only to end up getting shot by his stepfather. She survived, and mother and son continued to be, as Noah puts it in his book, “a team.”

Patricia was the driving force in Noah’s life, and the book is basically an ode to her. It makes sense that an actress of Nyong’o’s caliber would want to bring her story to life. I can’t wait to see what Nyong’o and Noah create together.

Until then, I guess I’ll just have to go see Black Panther fifty more times.

(via The Hollywood Reporter, image: screencap/Comedy Central)

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