Lupita Nyong'o jumps to new heights with all-female cast thriller

Oscar winner defeats acrophobia via daring stunts

Actress Lupita Nyong'o chats about her new role on 'The 355' film.
Actress Lupita Nyong'o chats about her new role on 'The 355' film.
Image: Matt Winkelmeyer

Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o portrays one of four kick-ass CIA secret agents in espionage thriller The 355, a historic film led by an all-female cast in the male-dominated genre.   

The 38-year-old actor plays Khadijah Adiyeme, who forms part of a group of international female spies on a  mission to save the world. 

The Kenyan leading lady is joined by American performer Jessica Chastain, German star Diane Kruger, Chinese actor Fan Bingbing and Spanish entertainer Penélope Cruz. This is how the women made film history:

How do you feel about acting alongside such dynamic and multifaceted women?

I feel honoured, that’s part of the reason why I wanted to be a part of this film. All the women have very seasoned careers and I have been watching and admiring their work from far. So, to get together and make this film was meaningful for me.

How was the mood on set?

The idea that this film hadn’t existed yet where there is a female ensemble at the helm of an espionage thriller was really surprising to me. And yet again, it showed that there was a gap that needed to be filled.

We know those female spies had existed for a very long time. The film is even named after the very first female spy and I believe we represented the crop of women fantastically well.

What did you learn from your co-stars during the time of filming?

I had the opportunity to watch these women, who all have families, navigate and balance between working and family life was really meaningful to me. I also learnt how powerful it is when you support and embrace a woman’s multilevel professionalism – who is a professional mother and actor.

Do you believe the future is female?

We’ve been living in a patriarchal world for a very long time but we’ve been here and we’ve been doing it and making it work. Women have been fighting for representation, equity and power to be shared more reasonably for a very long time. I believe this is a step in the right direction.

Equity for me is more important than domination; in the same time to have a film like this exist in a genre that’s dominated by men is a step in the right direction – this kind of balances the scale.

Lupita Nyong'o in ‘The 355’.
Lupita Nyong'o in ‘The 355’.
Image: Supplied

Did you do all the stunts yourself?

Yes, most of them but I also had an incredible stunt double as well. One of the things I did, which I am very proud of, is that I faced my fear of heights. There was a stunt that involved me jumping from one floor to another from a building that was more than 13 feet. I was harnessed, did a lot of practice rounds beforehand and on the day I nailed my jump. I was really proud of myself.

Who did you derive your inspiration from to execute your role?

Firstly, I did a lot of research and I also have a lot of formidable women in life, actually, one of my aunts was inspired by my role as Khadijah – she’s such a no-nonsense taking person.

What did you learn about yourself through playing Khadijah?

That I have no business in espionage, none whatever. But I did learn about cyber security and I have become more cautious about how I use my phone and the information I share. People need to be more aware and vigilant in what they put out into the world.    

What can we expect from you in the future?

We are currently in the process of making the second Black Panther: Wakanda Forever movie and I’m about to start a project with Natalie Portman called Lady In the Lake.  

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