Lupita Nyong’o, Madina Nalwanga, and Martin Kabanza on their roles in Queen of Katwe
It’s hard to believe a week ago I was sitting in a room waiting for Lupita Nyong’o, Madina Nalwanga, and Martin Kabanza. Anxiety started to set in while we waited, honestly I’m not sure why I was so nervous. Once the group arrived and we started this interview quickly turned amazing. Lupita walked in the room holding Madina and Martin’s hands, she guided them to their seats, and we began.
You could instantly tell that Madina and Martin had a strong connection with Lupita. They looked at her with the utmost respect and adoration. Lupita took the first question about how it was like working together. She started talking about Madina, paused and said “I’m talking about her like she’s not here,” and smiled. Once Madina was cast the pair bonded by visiting a local market in Katwe, Lupita asked Madina to show her how to cook.
Madina actually taught me how to cook. She sold corn in her past and I asked her to show me to go shopping in the market. How she’d do it, she did all the shopping. My whole onscreen family, we went and did it together and then we went back to her house and she showed me how to prepare the meal. And we all played a role in, in the preparation of the meal. Martin was director, but I feel like he was chopped a few things. So we broke the ice that was and we had a really great working relationship. They’re really hungry and curious and present as actors and it was so lovely for me to have that kind of immediate condition to work in. – Lupita Nyong’o
Martin and Madina started to talk to us about their time on set and how much they loved working with Lupita. They were both so excited to share about their working experience.
It was my first time acting, but I never knew anything about acting, but she taught us how to get into character. You know, we used to copy her everything she do. We tried to do it, so she was so good. She was a good mom. – Martin Kabanza on working with Lupita
And I really used to copy her, I named myself copycat because every time I could see her getting ready, getting to character and then I do what she was doing in a quiet ways and she can’t see me, but she was really good and she really helped me in some of the hard scenes that are really hard because I could not really cry because you’ll never find dancers sad. – Madina Nalwanga on working with Lupita
After talking about how much Lupita helped them work on their craft, Madina and Martin shared with the group why they still call Lupita mama/mom.
That’s why I still call her mom because ever since I was young and I ever since I left my mom because she wanted me to go to school. I’ve never had someone else or anyone else that I’ve ever called Mom since I was four, up to last year, so she was the first one to be called mom from my mouth and it was so nice for me to call her mom.
And she really acts it. Yes. Do you want this? So it was really nice for me to meet her and she was amazing for me and when I called mom for the first time, she replied to me, and I got touched inside my heart. Say, okay, so I can call her mom on tape and she will say yes, so it was really good. – Madina Nalwanga
Martin quickly interjected echoing the same sentiments as Madina saying, “My mother left me when I was three months, so, me too, because my first time to say mom in my mouth.” I looked across the room and saw tears stream down Lupita’s face as she listened to her on screen children talk about her, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. I could only hope for my children to describe me with such passion and love, when they talk about me to strangers.
Next we asked about the most touching scene to shoot in the movie, and if you’ve seen it you know that a huge bulk of the movie was touching.
Touching, my goodness, what wasn’t touching? I do remember once we were about to shoot the eviction scene, where we all get evicted and I was sitting in our tent where we’d wait and these two were very quiet as well and they were quite, quite pensive and, and I asked them, you know, how they felt.
And they both mentioned how this was their life. They both experienced evictions in their past and I just remember being really moved at how this, the artifice was reflecting a real life in Phiona, but also a real in both of them and that they were having this chance to tell their story, to bring it to a larger audience that would understand the challenges of poverty. – Lupita Nyong’o
We asked Lupita to put into words, her emotions when she saw her latest Vogue magazine cover.
I was just so touched when Vogue said they wanted to do another cover with me, of course I was like elated and then they said, we would love it to be about you in a different kind of way and they were interested in doing a trip to Africa. Then I said the only place to go was home.
It’s home and, and the place that means the most to me is my village, Ragda, where my grandparents are, it’s my ancestral home and I spent my vacations there as a child and it’s where my whole extended family would come together. To see that place, that light, that equatorial light on the cover of Vogue, and to find my grandmother in the pages inside, I mean, I was just like, Oh my God, was everything I hoped it would be. – Lupita Nyong’o
She went on to talk about how Lake Victoria connected Uganda and Kenya together. Sharing that on one side Queen of Katwe was shot and on the other side her home country where the Vogue photo shoot happened.
We asked about their favorite scenes in the movie. Martin said he liked when the team traveled to Budo and they were eating all the fried chicken. He’d never had it before so he really enjoyed it.
My favorite part in the movie was seeing David running around doing the cat and dog scene because not in my life, I’ve never had someone who has time for me, who has time for all of us. Like, he had time for us, so he could do the cat and dog playing for us and I looked at him. It was fun for me. I liked it, because all of my life, I’ve never had someone like that.
And he had time for us, so I respected him, and I enjoyed watching what he was doing for us and it was so amazing to see him jumping. Jumping over the bed, collapsing so that was my favorite. – Madina Nalwanga
Finally we ended the interview asking Lupita if she prefers roles in stories that have never been told, and what she hoped to bring to the forefront of playing those roles.
Well, I love playing roles that stretch me and help me to learn something new and deep about the human experience. It was not by design that I set out to play African women, but how happy I am to have had these opportunities because I think Africa all to often is perceived by blanket statements.
People have of this continent where I’m from and I know, being from there, that it is many splendor, and so to be able to bring to the forefront stories about African women in their variety is so exciting to me because I’m a child of global popular culture. I grew up watching Mexican, Brazilian, Australian, English, American TV. I am so happy to be able to play a part in making the African woman the global woman. – Lupita Nyong’o
The Queen of Katwe is playing in limited theaters, and opens everywhere on September 30th. To learn more about the film visit their website.
“Queen of Katwe” is based on the vibrant true story of a young girl from the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion.
Also, in the spirit of QUEEN OF KATWE, HSN is excited to partner with Soular Backpacks! For every Soular Backpack purchased, a solar-powered backpack is given to a child in Africa to help study at night. Currently, children are using kerosene lamps, which can cause health complications. Soular Backpacks use natural energy from the sun during a child’s walk home from school. Make a difference today: http://gohsn.co/gh6NNz