- Simon Garner
Actor of the Week: Lupita Nyong'o
This week sees our Actor of the Week prize awarded to a woman who has been a part of several massive films and franchises in the last five years or so; the unmistakable Lupita Nyong’o. Superheroes, galactic escapades, and everything in between, Nyong’o has covered a lot of ground in a short space of time, catapulting her to the forefront of shortlists and awareness alike.
There’s no better place to start than her film debut, and it was no ordinary debut. Working under the widely-praised director Steve McQueen, Nyong’o starred as Patsey in the Oscar-winning historical drama 12 Years a Slave. Not only was this her film debut, she actually won an Oscar at the first time of asking, making her rise to stardom arguably one of the most rapid there has ever been. 12 Years a Slave tells the story of a free black man, Solomon Northup, who is abducted from New York and sold into slavery. He faces 12 years of cruelty from a slave owner, but finds hope in that final year, changing his life forever. Nyong’o is excellent in her debut, and, considering the film also starred former Actor of the Week winners Benedict Cumberbatch and Brad Pitt, her Oscar win for Best Actress in a Supporting Role is so much more impressive.
The next huge role in her short but high-profile career to date was that of Maz Kanata in the Disney-era Star Wars film The Force Awakens, and she went on to reprise the role on more of a cameo basis in The Last Jedi. This role saw her star alongside last week’s AotW winner Andy Serkis, and also saw her adopt his now-signature motion capture method of acting, as Maz is a short alien species who lives on Takodana. She brings excellent enthusiasm and energy to the character. Regular followers of ours will know we were not fans of The Force Awakens, but Maz was both good fun and part of a pivotal sequence in the development of Rey’s character, so Nyong’o did and excellent job once again here.
Most recently, she played the female lead and the main character’s love interest in Black Panther. She stars as Nakia, who is a spy from Wakanda, the fictional disguised kingdom that is technologically advanced and the home of T’Challa, a.k.a Black Panther, the King of Wakanda. This is another strong outing from Lupita, as we see her work well with both Chadwick Boseman, who plays T’Challa, and Danai Gurira, who plays Okoye, a guard loyal to the throne of Wakanda. Highlights for Lupita's Nakia are in both the car chase scene and the battle towards the end. Whilst this role won’t win her any awards, it’s still a great example of the diversity she has been so skilled to show in such a short space of time so far.
Another notable mention is Non-Stop, where she starred as Gwen, and also worked alongside another former Actor of the Week winner in Liam Neeson.
Clearly, Nyong’o has it all in the locker, and, having won an Oscar so early in her career, who would bet against her repeating that achievement multiple times in years to come? I’d certainly err on the winning side. Nice work, Lupita!