Lupita Nyong’o is responding to criticism from disability rights groups after she admitted her performance as an evil doppelganger in “Us” was based on someone with spasmodic dysphonia.
In an interview with Variety about Jordan Peele’s horror film, Nyong’o, 36, says she was inspired to create her character’s voice after hearing Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speak. Kennedy Jr. suffers from spasmodic dysphonia, which causes the vocal cords to spasm while speaking.
“I was inspired by the condition spasmodic dysphonia, which is about trauma – sometimes emotional, sometimes physical – and it creates this spasming in your vocal cords,” the Academy Award winner said, though clarified she wasn’t imitating someone with the affliction. “It’s inspired by the condition, it’s not an exact replica of the condition.”
During an appearance on “The View” on Thursday, Nyong’o clarified her initial comments to Variety, apologizing to anyone she may have inadvertently offended.
“In my mind, I wasn’t interested in vilifying or demonizing the condition,” she says. “I crafted Red with love and care. So as much as it is in a very genre-specific world, I really wanted to ground her in something that felt real. So for all of that, I say sorry to anyone that I may have offended.”
Earlier this week, the National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association (NSDA) and the nonprofit group RespectAbility spoke out against the actress’ comments, alleging it was hurtful for those who suffer from Spasmodic Dysphonia to be associated with an “evil” being.
“Connecting disabilities to characters who are evil further marginalizes people with disabilities, who also have significant abilities and want to contribute to their communities just like anyone else,” RespectAbility president Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi said in a statement.
The NSDA agreed: “What is difficult for us, and for the thousands of people living with spasmodic dysphonia, is this association to their voice with what might be considered haunting.”
Despite the backlash over its star’s performance choices, “Us” continues to break box office records, scaring up over $113 million worldwide in its first week of release.