Back in 2012, when it came time for Steve McQueen to cast the role of Patsey, a young slave who's the unfortunate obsession of a torturous cotton plantation master in his film 12 Years a Slave, the acclaimed director saw over 1,000 actresses before he opted for one who had never before acted in a feature film. That actress was, of course, Lupita Nyong'o, who then hadn't even yet graduated Yale School of Drama; fast forward a year or so later, though, and she was an Academy Award-winning industry favorite with an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress under her belt.
Predictably, of course, the world has been obsessed with her name ever since—to the point that when Nyong'o ran into Beyoncé at the Met Gala the following year, it was Queen Bey who gushingly introduced herself to the Mexican-Kenyan actress, rather than the other way around. Also among Nyongo's fans are Miuccia Prada and no less than three million Instagram followers, no doubt in part garnered by the fact that Nyong'o has turned up on seemingly endless magazine covers—including W, not to mention three issues of Vogue—and even has a day named after herself in New York.
Still, amidst all that, something's been curiously missing over the last few years: Though she's starred in franchises as big as Star Wars, Nyong'o's major non-voice, non-CGI roles since 'smajor non-voice, non-CGI role since 12 Years a Slave have been few and far between. Only Queen of Katwe has offered us a showcase of Nyong'o unencumbered by CGI, and reminded us how much her use of her own face and body to convey emotion adds to her performances. Thankfully, that seems that it might change sooner than we thought: The latest teaser, unveiled on Wednesday, for Jay-Z and Tidal's upcoming project 4:44, a mysterious short, NC-17 film and potential visual album starring Nyong'o and Mahershala Ali that's out on Friday, gives a black-and-white glimpse once again at Nyong'o in all her ultra-emotional glory.
Though only 30, dialogue-less seconds long, the clip, titled "MaNyfaCedGod," is still long enough to showcase the type of rawness and grit Nyong'o brought to her grueling role as Patsey, which saw her endure scene after scene of graphic assaults. (The clip also even manages to be more exciting than the previous teasers—including the one starring a shirtless boxer played by the notably chiseled Ali.) Though little else has been released about 4:44—including its run time, or even exactly what it is in the first place—if the teaser is any indication, we'll all be finally getting our Lupita fix.
To be fair, of course, Nyong'o has never gotten close to stepping completely off the map. Last year, she starred opposite David Oyelowo in the critically acclaimed Queen of Katwe, a Uganda-based drama that certainly showcased Nyong'o's skills, but had a limited release—just like her role in the Broadway play Eclipsed. But before that, Nyongo's most memorable post-Oscar roles haven't even shown her face: Earlier that year, only her voice showed up in The Jungle Book when she played a wolf named Raksha, and the year before, though she was a central character in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, her entirely CGI role as the wise, 1,000-year-old space pirate Maz Kanata, also made sure it was her voice that took center stage.
In other words, it's high time Nyong'o herself appears on-screen, and even if 4:44 isn't what it looks like, at least it's confirmed we'll definitely be getting more of Nyong'o soon. In addition to more Star Wars, Nyong'o is also starring opposite Michael B. Jordan in Marvel's hotly anticipated Black Panther early next year—around the same time production is set to start on Nyong'o upcoming meme-inspired buddy pic, starring none other than Rihanna.
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