EXCLUSIVE: TRUE LOVE speaks to Lupita Nyong’o

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“I don’t put any effort in being African, I just am,” says Lupita Ngong’o. The actress speaks to us about her new film, Queen Of Katwe, and being authentically African.

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What was the most exciting moment about shooting the film in Uganda?

Just being in Uganda was amazing. To be in location for a film was great because I haven’t shot on location for a film since 12 Years A Slave. So to be in Uganda, in the slums of Katwe, where the actual story transpired was stimulating and informative for me, particularly for developing my character and having a full grasp of the story we were telling.

The film is about a mother fighting for her kids. Since you’re not a mother, how did you channel your role?

The woman I play is grounded and enigmatic; she reminded me of my mother. I spent a lot of time with her (the real Harriet), just getting to know her and her struggle, which helped. She was my inspiration. Playing this role gave me a profound respect for all mothers. This role was definitely a rehearsal towards motherhood for me.

As your career grows, is it easier to find interesting roles?

I’d like a career that is diverse. I went from doing a drama about slavery to doing Star Wars, which are two completely different projects. I also worked on Jungle Book, before being on Queen of Katwe. I sign on to things that I feel are offering me something new, and are a viable challenge. And that’s what I intend to do as I move forward.

What are challenges do you face with being an authentic African?

I have to be very deliberate [in choosing] the people I work with. From the films I make to the things I wear, to make-up, I have to hold the people that know and understand me very close. I’m not a one-man show, so having the right people around me helps.

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Do you ever feel the pressure of being the face of Africa?

No, I don’t. I don’t put any effort in being African, I just am. So I lead with what I know, which is conditioned by where I am from and the experiences I have had.

How are you finding Joburg?

Unfortunately I have done noting but work since I got here. I won’t even get a chance to explore. But half of the movie was shot in Joburg so I have spent some time here.

What are you currently working on?

I am producing and will be playing a role in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americana, which is a project that I am very passionate about and is a story that gives a whole other African perspective.

About Queen of Katwe

Living in the slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, is a constant struggle for 10-year-old Phiona (Madina Nalwanga) and her family. Her world changes one day when she meets Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), a missionary who teaches children how to play chess. Phiona becomes fascinated with the game and soon becomes a top player under Katende's guidance. Her success in local competitions and tournaments opens the door to a bright future and a golden chance to escape from a life of poverty.

Queen of Katwe opens in South Africa on 14 October 2016. Check out the trailer below.

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