Lupita Nyong'o recently shared the inspiration behind the jarring voice she uses for one of her characters in Jordan Peele's latest horror film "Us." The source of the sound is actually causing some controversy.
In the horror film, the actress plays both Adelaide Wilson, the mother of the family attacked in the film, and Wilson's murderous doppelgänger, Red. The voice she uses for the latter is striking and an element that really brings her terrifying character together.
The actress, 36, said she studied the condition spasmodic dysphonia, which she described as "a condition that comes about from trauma, sometimes emotional, sometimes physical, and create this spasming in your vocal chords that leads to an irregular flow of air," during a red carpet interview with Variety at the Los Angeles premiere of the film.
The movement disorder reportedly affects 50,000 in the United States, according to the National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association.
"I studied that," Nyong'o shared on the condition. "I worked with an ear, nose and throat doctor, a vocal therapist and my dialect coach to make sure that I could do it and do it safely because I had two roles to play. I couldn't afford to damage my voice."
She said she didn't hurt her voice in the process because the sound she channeled was inspired by the condition and not an "exact replica."
"While I was practicing and figuring it out, I definitely scratched my throat a few times," she added. "By the time we got to filming it, I was pretty set on how it should go and I was very good at warming up my voice and cooling it down."
Dr. Mark Courey, chief of laryngology for the Mount Sinai Health System, said, "when they speak certain words trigger their voice box to slam," on those affected with the condition.
However, Nyong'o using the condition as inspiration for her character's voice is rubbing some people actually living with the condition the wrong way.
Some took to social media to sound off on her tactic.
From what I have read you have chosen to change your voice to sound like someone with spasmodic dysphonia. I sooo appreciate my condition being used as inspiration for your evil character. Not!!!!! Ignorance rules!!— Linda Walker (@Lindaloverlips) March 23, 2019
So just seeing that Lupita told Variety that her performance in #UsMovie was based on spasmodic dysphonia. Black horror has to confront the tethering (pun intended) of disability and fear. Good place to start is letting disabled people create their own representation.— meatier shower (@zeke_nug) March 22, 2019
Please.— TheDisabilityEnthusiast (@twitchyspoonie) March 27, 2019
Wearing disability as a costume, especially as a shorthand for "creepy" in a horror movie is not a sign of good acting. I'm really tired of people thinking imitating a disability is the height of acting. I'm really tired of us being used as horror movie tropes & villains. https://t.co/jJwTAiMuBB
Please comment on the voice of the main character...she is mimicking a neurological disease that destroys my life and thousands others. Spasmodic Dysphonia, Google it...she is using Robert Kennedy as her model. Have some class Peele.— Cathy graham (@GrahamCgram51) March 25, 2019
Kimberly Kuman, executive director of the National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association, also weighed in on Nyong'o's strategy of getting into character.
"I think the biggest challenge is that it’s being associated with the terms 'creepy' and 'haunting', and the reality is once the movie is over, there still living with this voice disorder," she told "Good Morning America."
Nyong'o previously said she drew inspiration from Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s voice, as he has lived with the neurological disorder for over 20 years.
While Kennedy Jr. first tweeted that he didn't know what to make of the action, he later said he appreciated the actress raising awareness to the disorder.
"I'm grateful to Lupita for shining the spotlight on an injury that's been starved for attention," Kennedy Jr. said in a statement to "GMA." "In my discussions with her I've been impressed with by sensitivity and sincerity."
Kuman also wants to use the increased attention surrounding the disorder to raise awareness.
"We would like to make this a positive outcome," she told "GMA."
"Again, this is not how we would have wanted to raise awareness about spasmodic dysphonia, but it's an opportunity that we're going to take full advantage of."