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Lupita Nyong’o to Produce and Star in Trevor Noah Biopic

The ‘Black Panther’ actress has the range and fierceness needed to bring the realities of apartheid to the big screen.
Black Panther Lupita Nyong'o
By  · Published on February 22nd, 2018

The ‘Black Panther’ actress has the range and fierceness needed to bring the realities of apartheid to the big screen.

Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, who is currently lighting up the screen in Black Panther, has signed on to star in Born A Crime, a film based on the memoirs of the current host of The Daily Show, Trevor Noah. According to Deadline, she’ll play Noah’s mother, Patricia Nombuyiselo, and in addition to her acting duties, Nyong’o will also be a producer on the film.

Noah’s childhood was a difficult time for his mother. An abusive relationship in a country ruled by apartheid made it hard. Harder than it should have to be for anyone. Nyong’o has a challenging, emotionally charged job ahead of her, and joining on as a producer is a deft move that allows her to protect her creative space as she brings Nombuyiselo to audiences. From day one, she’ll have the opportunity to exercise a great deal of creative control in bringing Noah’s account of his mother to the big screen.

Nyong’o definitely has the talent to do it. Her work in 12 Years A Slave is phenomenal. That is an ugly movie about the worst of America, and I really just don’t know how she found the emotional depth and range to do that work. Her performance is so good and so open. Her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress was so far beyond well-earned.

She is also part of what makes Black Panther sing. Her role as Nakia, arguing for Wakanda to solve problems with something other than immediate violence, is essential to making the battle of philosophies so relatable on the screen. Yet, she does it without losing a beat as a proper badass. Her performance-capture work in the new Star Wars trilogy as the wise and spry Maz Kanata is also solid. Basically, Nyong’o is unstoppable.

And she is going to need those skills. While they are Noah’s memoirs, the book “Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood” focuses on the role of his mother in his life. It offers a painful, candid accounting of Nombuyiselo’s experience raising Noah in post-apartheid South Africa. She was an unyielding force for good in his life, despite the enormous challenges they faced.

Nombuyiselo’s time as a young mother was rough. Noah’s father was white, and in South Africa, mixed-race procreation was against the law. Noah was born in 1984, and South African apartheid laws, like the ones that banned mixed-race children, did not begin to be dismantled until 1990. Noah’s step-father was an abusive and violent man. And Nombuyiselo did not separate from her husband until 1996.

Imagine raising a child in that environment. Like. Really. Stop and just reflect on the fucking challenge of it. Just think about your Saturday lunch. How did yours go last weekend? Imagine you have to go to the grocery. In an area where people literally recognize your child as evidence of a crime. After you’ve checked out, you ride the bus home. Side eyes. Judgement. Hateful comments. Death threats. Attempted murder. Yet. No one dies. You make it home. To domestic abuse.

And yet despite all that, Nombuyiselo raised a wildly successful man. Full credit to fierce moms. I don’t know how they do it. Nyong’o has a heck of a challenge ahead of her. Based on her previous projects, she’s definitely going to crush it.

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Writer for Film School Rejects. He currently lives in Virginia, where he is very proud of his three kids, wife, and projector. Co-Dork on the In The Mouth of Dorkness podcast.