Lupita Nyong’o is opening up about how some advice from Emma Thompson helped to land her on the right track after her 2014 Oscar win for “12 Years a Slave”.
Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Nyong’o recalled how the lessons she learned while studying at the prestigious Yale School of Drama covered a lot of ground but left her wholly unprepared for winning an Academy Award for her film debut.
“We kept being told that it’s going to be one long, lonely, hard and fruitless journey, being an actor,” Nyong’o explained. “You’re going to be Policewoman Number Three for a long time before you can get anywhere. They helped us to mentally prepare for failure, but they did not prepare us for success.”
Winning the Oscar put her on a whole new career path, with added opportunities and added pressure.
“I got told a lot, not just by my team but by other actors that I would meet, ‘You’ve got to strike now,’ ” Nyong’o said.
While in London to film “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, she decided to call Emma Thompson, whom she’d become friendly with while the two were on the awards circuit leading up to the 2014 Oscars.
“She invited me over, and I went to dinner with her, and she totally demystified all of that,” Nyong’o revealed.
“She did save my life. I had won this huge award, and my imposter syndrome was at an all-time high. I was so intimidated by this new platform that I seemed to have. I mean, I acted in one film. I didn’t even know what the ‘martini shot’ was, for crying out loud,” she added.
While Nyong’o was being advised to strike while the iron was hot and take on as many movie roles while discouraging theatre, Thompson didn’t agree.
“She told me that she quit acting for over eight years at some point, and everybody told her that she would never be able to come back to it, and she did,” Nyong’o said. “She encouraged me to do what I thought was best for my instrument.”
Thanks to that advice, Nyong’o decided to pursue an opportunity on Broadway, in the play “Eclipsed”.
“My first place where I cut my teeth was in the theatre, and I wanted to touch base with that because I knew how to do that, and it really, really helped me,” she said. “It helped me rededicate myself to the work of acting because I was so disillusioned by it. The awards circuit is so far away from the work. Becoming a celebrity, that’s a whole other job than being an actor. I needed to get back to what got me here in the first place, and the theatre did that for me.”