Lupita Nyong’o said she based her ‘creepy’ voice in ‘Us’ on a rare vocal disorder

Lupita Nyong'o is getting praise for her dual roles.

Lupita Nyong’o is getting praise for her dual roles.
Universal Pictures

  • The highly anticipated film “Us” opened to a monster $70.25 million weekend.
  • Actress Lupita Nyong’o plays the dual rule of protagonist and villain in the psychological thriller.
  • The Oscar-winning actress said she based her voice in the movie on a disorder politician Robert Kennedy Jr. has.
  • Kennedy has spasmodic dysphonia, a disorder that produces compulsory twitches in the muscles of one’s voice box or larynx.
  • This post contains light spoilers for the movie “Us.”

The psychological thriller “Us” has left viewers and critics alike shocked, confused, and eager to discuss the fan theories revolving around the highly anticipated flick. Director Jordan Peele’s latest project grossed $70.25 million in its opening weekend, according to CNBC and clocked in at third for the best horror movie debut for a film not based on a pre-existing property.

One of the more eerie elements in the film is the raspy voice of one of the lead characters, played by Lupita Nyong’o. The Oscar winner portrays the dual role of the protagonist Adelaide and antagonist Red, and viewers are first introduced to Red’s bone-chilling voice during a monologue at the beginning of the movie’s second act.

Nyong’o and Peele spoke with The New York Times regarding the development of Red’s voice and revealed that the origin is actually inspired by a famous figure.

The ‘Black Panther’ star says she based the voice on a disorder known as spasmodic dysphonia, and credits Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as a source of influence

Nyong’o and Peele worked together to bring Red to life, and the only instruction she received from Peele was to make the voice sound “scratchy,” according to the Times.

From there, Nyong’o set out to find the perfect match for the rather vague description. It wasn’t until she was at a fashion event prior to filming when she said she heard something that piqued her attention: the voice of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Kennedy has spasmodic dysphonia, a disorder that produces compulsory twitches in the muscles of one’s voice box or larynx. Per the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, there is no cure for the condition and it’s rare. It affects only .02% of the population, according to ABC News.

Nyong’o plays two roles in the film.

Nyong’o plays two roles in the film.
Universal Pictures

Nyong’o says she met with people who have the disorder as well as worked with a vocal coach for the role

From there, the actress took necessary steps in modifying her own delivery to mirror those who have the disorder.

“I was fascinated, and I started doing research,” Nyong’o said to the New York Times. “I met with people who have the condition and built it from there.”

The 36-year-old worked with vocal coach Beth McGuire, who she also partnered with on 2018’s “Black Panther” and the 2016 Broadway play “Eclipsed.”

Though it’s not exactly confirmed that Nyong’o’s character has the disorder, she said that after doing her research, she felt like the voice and condition made sense in the context of the film.

“It’s not really understood why it happens, or how it happens,” she told the Times. “It could be a trauma in your life – someone dying, or a physical assault. It varies. For me, it felt very organic as an inspiration for Red, who’s had this kind of strangled past.”

When Nyong’o performed the voice for Peele in pre-production, the director told the Times it “was like nothing [he] had ever heard” and described it as “so creepy.”

After Nyong’o shared her inspiration, Kennedy responded with a tweet saying he wasn’t sure if he should be flattered or not. “Not sure what to make of this honor,” he tweeted. “It is a good thing?”

Nyong’o’s representatives did not immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment.

“Us” is currently in theaters nationwide in the US.