The following contains spoilers for Us**.**
There are many terrifying parts of Jordan Peele's new film, Us. However, one of the most chilling aspects of the story has to be the performance of Lupita Nyong'o's dark doppelganger, Red. She moves with a inhuman smoothness which will be enough to make your skin crawl on its own. However, it's when Red speaks that she truly terrifies.
Red's voice has a raw and raspy quality. The words come out clearly enough, but with a methodical slowness, like she has to fight to make every word work. Jordan Peele apparently gave Lupita Nyong'o a very basic understanding of what he wanted from Red's voice, in part because he was keeping aspects of the story itself hidden from her early on. Nyong'o says she eventually found inspiration for her character after hearing, of all people, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speak. This led the actress to investigate the affliction more in order to better understand it. According to Nyong'o...
I was fascinated, and I started doing research. I met with people who have the condition and built it from there.
Kennedy, the son of the former Attorney General of the United States, suffers from a condition called spasmodic dysphonia. It's part of a group of neurological disorders which cause muscles to spasm involuntarily. When those muscles are in the throat and vocal chords, it results in a voice that comes out uneven. Lupita Nyong'o tells the New York Times that she found the vocal irregularity inspiring and began to study it more in order to learn as much as she could about it.
As it turns out, little is known about how the condition comes about, but Lupita Nyong'o felt that it made sense for the character of Red. According to the actress...
It’s not really understood why it happens, or how it happens. It could be a trauma in your life — someone dying, or a physical assault. It varies. For me, it felt very organic as an inspiration for Red, who’s had this kind of strangled past.
Lupita Nyong'o stops short of stating that Red suffers from this particular affliction. Maybe she does, maybe she doesn't, but it's not hard to see how the concept inspired the way the character speaks. Red is a dark and twisted opposite of Nyong'o's other character, Adelaide. It makes sense that Red's speech would be just as twisted as everything else about the character.
There are many aspects of Us that are likely to remain with you after you see the film, but the voice of Red is absolutely one of them. Us is in theaters now.