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Lupita Nyong’o Says ‘Black Panther’ Avoided Using the ‘Struggle’ of Having Dark Skin as ‘Clickbait’

”It was so refreshing to work on an African narrative that did not lead with the struggle of being African,“ Academy Award winner says

A year and a half after the release of “Black Panther,” people are still talking about how the Ryan Coogler-directed Marvel movie smashed box office expectations. Star Lupita Nyong’o has her own theories about why the film, which grossed $1.347 billion in global box office, was more of a commercial success than Hollywood thought it would be — and it has to do with avoiding using “the struggle through having dark skin” as “clickbait.”

“In ‘Black Panther,’ I felt that the African experience was allowed to exist aspirationally,” Nyong’o said in Vanity Fair’s October cover story. “I think it’s more common in America to hear of the struggle of black people than it is to hear of the success. It’s more of a sensation to have a headline about a struggle, you know? The struggle through having dark skin is clickbait. So when ‘Black Panther’ came along … it was so refreshing to work on an African narrative that did not lead with the struggle of being African.”

Nyong’o says she signed on to the project on the strength of Coogler’s pitch alone, as the script from Coogler and Joe Robert Cole didn’t exist yet — and Marvel wouldn’t have let her see it even if it had. And though Coogler and Cole wrote the film while Barack Obama was still president, it came out one year into Donald Trump’s presidency.

“Ryan was speaking to a future relevance that he could not have predicted,” the Academy Award winner told Vanity Fair.

Nyong’o explained what made her take the role based on the pitch alone — and why she takes any role in the first place.

“As I prepare, I have to articulate to myself why I’m doing this,” Nyong’o said. “The secondary thing is definitely the people. When I choose projects, I want to have faith that as an artist it will speak to a time when it is needed as much as it speaks to me at the time that I make it. I really understood this with ‘Black Panther,’ when we were making that movie in such a different political climate than the one in which it came.”