Lupita Nyong’o Used Robert F. Kennedy Jr. As Inspiration for Her Us Voice

Director Jordan Peele gave her just one word to go on: "Scratchy."


Without giving away any spoilers, one of the most horrific things in Jordan Peele‘s latest horror thriller Us may very well be Lupita Nyong’o‘s voice. In the film, she pulls double duty as Adelaide, and as Adelaide’s doppelgänger Red. As the latter, she adopts a voice that is truly chilling. The wildest thing about it, though, may be where she took inspiration from to get her voice just right.

Nyong’o revealed the source of her Red voice in a new profile in The New York Times—and, well, buckle up. Apparently she got the idea after attending a fashion event where Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was speaking. Due to his medical condition, spasmodic dysphonia, Kennedy talks in a unique voice that Nyong’o thought matched the one-word description she received from Peele: “scratchy.”

As for her movements in the film, Nyong’o received two words of inspiration: “Queen cockroach.” She took that and created magic with it, as Peele shared in The New York Times. “She walked into the room and you just felt the air suck out of it,” Peele said of Nyong’o’s first scene as Red. “The first time she did that scene was magic. I think we shot it like 10 times—just because we could—and it was always gold.”

Nyong’o actually worked on the script with Peele, giving him some direction for the development of the characters. “Right out of the gate she was asking questions about the characters that I didn’t know the answer to—and I knew everything about them,” Peele explained to the Times, which Nyong’o confirmed, adding, “He was really inviting of my thoughts and ideas…He’ll have this kernel of an idea that is so strong, and then he’ll keep adding to it and clarifying his intentions as he goes along,” she said. “When he cast me in the movie, I joined him in that process.”

The actress’s performance in the film is, perhaps unsurprisingly, being lauded by those who have seen it. After all, when the terrifying poster for Us dropped, that was enough to spark an Oscar campaign for Nyong’o. For the rest of the world, the film officially comes out this Friday, March 22.