Lupita Nyong’o’s Newest Role Confirms My Belief That a Black Protagonist Can Be the ‘Every Woman’

Moviegoers will flock to the air-conditioned seats of their local movie theaters to see the latest destined to be the latest blockbuster horror flick, A Quiet Place: Day One. It may not even occur to them that leading actress Lupita Nyong’o is lensing this harrowing alien experience through the eyes of a Black woman. And that’s exactly the way the actress wants it to be.

“I think it’s very important to have Black characters telling stories where their racial experience is not the primary experience because we are more than the race that we have been allocated,” she tells EBONY about her latest screen endeavor.

“When I wake up in the morning, I’m not thinking about being Black, you know what I mean? I’m just thinking about being tired and wanting to find my energy; I’m human first and foremost. And in a situation like this, an apocalypse where aliens have invaded the planet, I really do hope that race is not a topic.”

Race aside, there’s a bit of a love story that came about during the filming for Nyong’o, onscreen and off.  

“[My character] Samira is a woman whose outlook on life is not what you expect. She’s facing mortality in a very different way than Eric (played by Stranger Things’ Joseph Quinn). And despite those differences, in this apocalyptic world, they are forced to forge ahead together,” she shares.

“At the end of the day, it’s about how much we need each other. In the first two films, we have a family at the center of the narrative, and we all understand family and the need to stick together. We understand that without much effort. But two strangers in New York City having to come together, the how and the why is the question for an audience; it was a question for me reading it. And you see them find each other in more than just the physical sense. They find each other emotionally and spiritually in a way that just is a reminder that we need each other beyond our tribal affiliations.”

As Samira searches for home in A Quiet Place‘s third franchise installment, Nyong’o has found love in her co-star—no, not Quinn. We’re talking about the cat. In the film, her character battles sound-seeking alien killers with her trusty feline in tow.

“I love going home to my cat, which makes me definitely a cat lady,” she exclaims. It’s ironic because Nyong’o actually feared the animal before starring in the film.

“In order to play Samira, I had to get over my fear of cats; it was like, ‘Do I want this job or do I wanna hold onto my fear of cats,” she says with a chuckle. “So, I got exposure therapy: they brought cats to my house, and I was able to learn about cat behavior from a distance before I could put one finger on them. I worked my way to being able to convincingly hold a cat without freaking out. Then I made this film, and of course, by the end of it, I was madly in love with the cats. I couldn’t believe it. I was crying on the last day saying goodbye to the cats.”

Nyong’o also loved working in a film where she had to express her emotions without making a sound. “As human beings, we’re always communicating with more than just our words. The words kind of distract us from the more primal ways in which we’re sending messages to each other,” she says. “This film was a chance to be reminded of that and amp it, brew it to the surface and use the power of it to tell the story.”

And back to that storytelling, where every audience member will experience it through Nyong’o’s eyes.

“I’m aware that this film is contributing to a canon of movies adding to depictions of women in film and of Blackness in film and hopefully expanding the humanity of a Black woman in film,” she states. “It was important to look at it through that lens but not burden it with that lens. I’m really happy to have a Black protagonist play the every woman.”

A Quiet Place, Day One is in theaters on June 27.

Updated: June 26, 2024 — 3:02 pm