When I first learned that Jordan Peele — the writer, director, and creative genius behind the movie Get Out — was releasing another psychological thriller this year, I was all in. Peele’s 2017 masterpiece, left so many of us shook. Not only was there no other film out there quite like it, but it solidified the importance of casting people of color as film leads. Us has had a similar effect. In fact, it broke a box office record for movies starring Black women which has me ecstatic, especially considering this was Lupita Nyong’o’s first-ever headlining role. This is a massive deal.
The film has earned more $70 million in the U.S. alone and just during its opening weekend. How crazy is that? It hasn’t even been out for a week. According to reports, that’s more than any other film led by a Black actress has ever made in all of box office history.
I’ll admit, that discovering that the lead character was going to be played by Nyong’o definitely gave me even more reason to see it and support it. Nyong’o won Best Supporting Actress for her role in 12 Years a Slave and has been cast in major films since, including Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, The Jungle Book, and of course, Black Panther.
I was very much impressed by her acting in these films but none of those performances have anything on her Us performance. Nyong’o literally blows you away in this film. So much so, I’d be shocked if she doesn’t receive an Oscar nomination for this and I’m not the only one who feels that way. Quite a few folks have taken to Twitter to express how fascinated they were with her performance.
“What a way to end opening weekend! I’ve felt the support all around (wowee New York Times this week!) and am grateful for this moment,” Nyong’o wrote on Instagram. “I’m having so much fun and looks like many of you had a scary good time at the theater this weekend too.
This film and its response is a testament to the fact that we need more people of color creating, writing, and directing films so that they can create more opportunities for people of color to star in these films — mainstream and critically-acclaimed films especially. In this particular case, Peele created that opportunity. In fact, he’s made it a priority to do so.
Peele recently sat down with a group of students at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade and talked about his role as a filmmaker and his thoughts when it comes to casting.
“I don’t see myself casting a white dude as the lead in my movie. Not that I don’t like white dudes, but I’ve seen that movie,” he said. It’s filmmakers like Peele that understand the importance of casting people of color — women of color especially — in lead roles and the impact it has not just on the film industry but on our culture. Black actresses like Nyong’o clearly have a lot to bring to the table. They are more than capable of filling and nailing these roles. Let’s give them the opportunities to do that.