You never know how an interview will go when you walk in the room. I’d say more than half usually end up better than my expectations. Then every once in awhile there is one that makes you pause. Makes you think. As we interviewed upita Nyong’o (“Harriet Mutesi”),and the kids from the movie: Madina Nalwanga (“Phiona Mutesi”) & Martin Kabanza (Phiona’s brother “Brian Mugabi”) I stopped everything and was thoroughly engaged. I stopped taking notes. I stopped tweeting. I just sat there and wiped a tear from my eye. I was so overcome with emotion for these kids and Lupita. Their stories and answers will tug at your heart strings. Check them out below:
Q: What was the three of you working together like?
LN: We like each other and we had a lot of fun together. I met them before we started shooting. Once Madina was cast, it was a long process for her to be cast and then when she was finally cast, I walked into a rehearsal workshop situation where they had my whole family there and I walked in and she just said, hi, Mom. I gave her a big hug and they were both just so receptive to me. 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 and we went back to, 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.
We all played a role in the preparation of the meal. He was director, but I feel like he chopped a few things. He participated. 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 present kind of immediate condition to work in. They still call me mama.
MK: It was my first time acting, but I never knew anything about acting. She taught us how to get into character. We used to copy her everything she do. She was so good. She was a good mom.
MN: I really used to copy her and 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. We are always happy and she was there for me to make sure that I get into character so that I can cry. She really helped me so much.
MN: 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 and that’s why I left her, like, 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 and it was so, 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 meeting
MK: Look, I was raised by my grandparents. My mother left me when I was three months, so, me too, because my first time to say mom in my mouth. Yes. Not a dry eye.
Q:Are there any scenes that were especially touching for you?
LN: Touching, my goodness. What wasn’t touching? I do remember once we were about to shoot the eviction scene, you know, where we all, we get evicted. I was sitting in our, we had a tent where we’d wait and these two were very quiet as well and they were quite pensive and I asked them, How they felt. 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, 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. But also the triumph of people who live through it and the fact that poverty is not one’s definition. And that they were going to have this chance to put that experience of their past into very, very good and immediate use in the scene were about to shoot and obviously, I come from a very different background. I come from a background of privilege and so I was very humbled in that moment. Because here I am playing the mother and being the hepherdess of these two going through this experience and yet, I was learning so much from them. I was just humbled by that moment and being able to take their lead as we went to do that scene.
Q: What was your favorite scene in the movie?
LN: Favorite scenes. Handsome man first.
MK: Where I run for the chicken. It was so work for me because all the time I was eating chicken.
LN: I was trying to teach them about, I made this mistake of twelve years when they give you food, you can’t eat too much of it because there’s going to be so many takes and you’re going to be sick by the time you finish the scene and I wasn’t there for that scene, but we had a scene where we had to eat this stew and the art department made this stew so good, so all the kids were just like, scarfing it down and I was like, guy(s), you’ve got to slow down because you’re not going to make it and then before you know it, and they didn’t want (it).By the time we’re shooting the thing, they’re like, pushing it away. They didn’t want anything to do with it.
MN: Yeah, so with me, 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, but I felt it because I felt it because ever since, for all of my life, I’ve never had someone like that. So I respected him, his time 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.
MK: Another time, scene that I liked in the movie is the flood scene. I like Mama doing it. She was so real and me, I didn’t have that power of crying, but she made me cry in that scene because she was so real.
Q: Do you prefer roles in stories that have never been told and what do you hope to bring to the forefront in playing those roles?
LN: Well, I love playing roles that stretch me and help me to learn something new and deep about the human experience. I mean, 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, is blanket. It’s just a blanket statement. There’s so specificity. It’s very a general wash of ideas. That people have of this continent where I’m from and I know, being from there, that it is many splendored and so to be able to bring to the forefront stories, particular and specific 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 and cinema and I think I was able to identify with all those people that I met and learn something new about those cultures. I’d never worn a winter coat, but I know when you’re in New York, you have a winter coat. As much as I identified with the sibling rivalry or the heartbreak or whatnot and so for an African story to be playing that same kind of role, being I, a universal story that’s still and it’s specificity as we find with Phiona Mutesi in this story of Queen of Katwe, it is my pride and my joy. I am so happy to be able to play a part in, in making the African woman the global woman.
Film Hits Theatres September 30!
***Disclosure: I attended the #QueenOfKatwe + #ABCTVEvent My flight, lodgings, and expenses were covered by Disney All opinions are 100% mine. ***