Lunching at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons, impeccably made up and glowing with enthusiasm and easy charm, Mexico-born and Kenya-raised actress Lupita Nyong'o makes a very different impression than on-screen in director
How did this film find you?
I was about to graduate from the Yale School of Drama, and my manager was given the script for another client of hers,
Is it tough to play societal attitudes from the past, with different modes of thinking about equality, justice ... ?
You know, as an actor, if you think that way, you do nothing. It is crippling to have an omniscient view of what's happening. So, for me, it's important to narrow in on the subjective view of the one character, and if you are really doing that homework, then those things get taken care of. But you can't look at them from that kind of panoramic view. You have to zero in on your character ... and then it's Steve's business to worry. [Laughs]
The film was shot in Louisiana. How much does being there physically help?
It helps immensely, because history in Louisiana is present in the oaks; they are 300-plus years old, and they were the trees under which slaves took a breather, and they are the trees that slaves hung from, and you are aware of that. The trees ... the moss, the bayous, everything is just pregnant with history, and it's incredible because it's tangible. It brings that history right into the present. The heat is a character in the film, and it changes the way you move, how you think, and so it really did help push us even further. That these horrible things happened in such a beautiful environment makes it that much more emotional.
When you are just reading the script, is it interesting to read a film that is not cutting away from the more horrible elements of its topic?