Earlier today the Tony Nominations were announced and Best Supporting Actress Oscar Winner, Lupita Nyong’o received a nomination for her role in Eclipsed. The actress is currently wowing Broadway audiences in the play that tells the story of five women during the 2003 Liberian War.
Nyong’o penned an open letter on Lena Dunham’s site Lenny Letter on her choice to appear on stage over appearing in the movies. Nyong’o says a journalist recently asked her, “Why would such a big star choose to do such a small play?” She continues, “This question felt quite silly. I mean, I’m an actress; why wouldn’t I want to be in an incredible, gorgeous, meaty piece about the complicated choices of women during wartime? But then it went deeper than that. To me it felt like a question about our value system in this culture, the ways we define success for ourselves as well as others.”
She won her Oscar in 2012 for her role as Patsey in 12 Years A Slave and most recently lent her voice to Disney’s The Jungle Book. She writes, “I turned down a few projects to pursue this one. I knew there was a sense of what was expected of me, but this play felt so important to me that I had to do it, expectations be damned.”
She says in the letter that, “feeling connected to a fully realized, complex character is what I look for first. The size of the role, and the budget, and the perceived “buzz” around the project are much less important to me.” Continuing, Nyong’o says the careers of Cate Blanchett, Viola Davis and Tilda Swinton inspire her. “If I’m ever in doubt, I envision the career choices of artists I admire, like Tilda Swinton, Cate Blanchett, and Viola Davis. They are all fearless actresses who approach every role without ego or vanity. They have a fierce commitment to the moment and the role, whether it’s the lead or a character we see for just one scene. They give it their all, and it shows. The thought of having a career that in any small way might resemble theirs excites me.
She writes, “The chance to appear in Eclipsed after winning an Oscar was an opportunity to share in the incredible (and too rare) freedom of playing a fully rendered African woman. The playwright, Danai Gurira, has conceived a drama where the only people onstage are women. This allows the audience to be fully immersed in their lives, although the presence of the men around them is deeply felt.”
Nyong’o will next be seen in Mira Nair’s biopic The Queen of Katwe. She says, “I look out at the diverse audiences who come to full houses and experience our performances, and feel proud of being a part of sharing this important story with the world. I see a work of incredible power that is transforming lives by daring to offer women of color fully rendered narratives, and I feel so lucky to be a part of it. I look at this play and see nothing about it that is “small.”
Read the full essay that beautifully reinforces why Nyong’o shouldn’t have to justify her career choices to anyone when you subscribe to Lenny Letter : http://www.lennyletter.com/work/a361/why-i-chose-a-small-play-over-the-big-screen/