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Us: Shahadi Wright Joseph On Playing Two Different Characters [Exclusive Interview]

It takes tremendous talent to portray a character on screen properly. However, to play two polar opposite characters is very special.

In Jordan Peele’s follow-up horror film with Us, a family is pitted against a terrifying and uncanny adversaries—dopplegangers of themselves.

The film stars Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elizabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex.

LRM Online had an exclusive phone interview with Shahadi Wright Joseph late last week in promotion of the Blu-ray/DVD release today. She talked about her experiences in playing two characters and working with Jordan Peele.

Us is available on 4K, Blu-ray, DVD, digital download and On Demand today.

Read our exclusive interview below.

LRM: Hey, I just want to remark that you have such a beautiful name. Where did it came from for Shahadi?

Shahadi Wright Joseph: My name is Arabic. It means the protector of the people

LRM: Wow. Well, let’s start off with the easy question here. Why were you attracted to a horror thriller film like Us?

Shahadi Wright Joseph: I love watching horror movies. As soon as I got the audition for Us, I read the [notes]. I was really excited and really committed to the audition. I was just really surprised that I got a second callback, because it was something that I’ve never done before. It was really exciting and very new. Jordan [Peele] really helped me along the way with just enjoying this new new journey. It was a lot of fun. A little bit challenging in some parts as well.

LRM: Tell me about playing two different characters of Zora and Umbrae. How much of a challenge was playing two different characters? How did you separate the two?

Shahadi Wright Joseph: It really was a challenge. It would be more of a challenge when we would have to separate the day between the two characters. It was challenging, because just to get into that mindset takes a little while. [Laughs] I have never experienced that type of theater before. I’ve never experienced the struggle that Umbrae has to go through. I definitely had to go into a different part of my mind to really get the characters to be authentic.

LRM: What about acting with the rest of the cast? Was it as confusing as you have to play your characters and they have to play their characters?

Shahadi Wright Joseph: It really wasn’t. It was actually much easier with playing all of theroles with Lupita [Nyong’o], Winston [Duke] and Evan [Alex]. It made the process much easier, because we could really feel our presence. Just reverbing off of each other. That really helped, because we could really enjoy ourselves just as a family. We could get into that state of really trying to kill our double.

LRM: Your two characters are quite the opposite of each other. Who you enjoy playing more? Zora or Umbrae?

Shahadi Wright Joseph: I think I enjoyed playing Umbrae a little bit more just because I’ve never played the villain before. It was really different, but it was a lot of fun.

LRM: What was the best scene that you had or was most exciting to you?

Shahadi Wright Joseph: It would have to be the home invasion scene,where they come into the Wilson’s house. It was a lot of fun. Both parts, being really scared and also being the scarer. [Laughs] It was great. I would take a lot of notes from Jordan. He is like the horror king. He would always really help me connect to the scene to be really scary and just really great.

LRM: What were some of the advice that Jordan actually gave you? I know this is his second movie as a whore horror film director, but what did he do to help mold you into the characters?

Shahadi Wright Joseph: Usually for me, I would practice a scene. I would usually talk to him about how I could make the scene better. He would talk to me about how my posture can affect the character. Or just the way that I walk. Or even just looking at the scenes on camera. It’s to see how they look and how I look on camera. That would help a lot because I could stay conscious about being in character. Also just making sure that it was really, really scary.

LRM: What would you do if you had a meet up with your own doppelganger?

Shahadi Wright Joseph: This is a tough one. [Laughs] You can’t really hide, because they think like you. I guess I would try to kill them right away. I don’t really know how. You would have to try to do something just to get them out of your way. That’s my strategy.

LRM: Would you love to work in another horror movie down the road for yourself?

Shahadi Wright Joseph: Oh, definitely. Now that I’ve had one experience in horror. I can definitely translate that into another job that I can make it even better.

LRM: Just a little background about yourself. Why did you want to get into acting?

Shahadi Wright Joseph: When I was younger my mom found an audition for the Lion King on Broadway. It took off there. I kept going and going to see what we could get. Then further down the line of the numerous jobs that I could get, finally I got Us, which was really big. We were so excited for that. I’m going on from there. That’s all.

LRM: Speaking of the Lion King, you’re voicing the young Nala in that film. That’s pretty exciting then.

Shahadi Wright Joseph: Yeah.

LRM: Could you tell us more about the, the experience of voicing that character?

Shahadi Wright Joseph: It’s very different from being On Broadway. You have to put all of young Nala’s energy just into your voice. You can’t really use your body language that much. It is a little bit challenging. It was very new to do voiceover in a feature film. I definitely really enjoy it. I’d probably want to do it again.

LRM: In the future, since you have Us and Lion King under your belt, what kind of other roles that you would love to play?

Shahadi Wright Joseph: I would love to be in a drama film. I always love coming of age movies. Maybe one of those down the line as well would be great.

LRM: Besides, The Lion King, do you have any other projects that you could talk about?

Shahadi Wright Joseph: I am putting out some music later this year. I can’t really talk much about it, but I can definitely assure you that you’re going to be excited.

LRM: Hey, thank you very much, Shahadi. I really enjoy this conversation.

Shahadi Wright Joseph: Thank you so much.

Us is available on 4K, Blu-ray, DVD, digital download and On Demand today.

Source: LRM Online Exclusive

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