How Lupita Nyong’o Landed Her Next Role As Trevor Noah’s Heroic Mother

If you’ve read Trevor Noah’s autobiography, Born A Crime, or recall him spilling tidbits about his childhood on The Daily Show, then you already know Noah’s mother is an impressive woman. And now, Lupita Nyong’o will bring her bravery to the big screen.

Both Noah and Nyong’o excitedly announced that the Black Panther star would play Noah’s mother, Patrice in the film adaptation of his book. “My mom is a powerful woman who could easily be one of the beautiful soldiers in Wakanda,” said Noah on Instagram about Black Panther’s fictitious utopia. “So it’s beyond a perfect fit that she would be portrayed on the big screen by the radiant and regal Lupita Nyong’o. I’m beyond excited.” The caption also reposted a message from Nyong’o, which also discussed her excitement.

Despite Noah’s knack for comedic delivery, skillfully shown throughout his book, his story of growing up with a Black mother and Swiss father in South Africa during Apartheid is no laughing matter. When his parents met, interracial relationships were illegal and cause for arrest.

Under the Immorality Act of 1927, “illicit carnal intercourse between Europeans and natives,” was strictly prohibited. Noah’s lighter complexion and interracial features, in particular, made him a target when they appeared together in public. As a tot, even the act of holding hands with her in public could attract violent repercussions. Outings together on the street were strategically camouflaged; his father, Robert, walking on the opposite side of the street. He often needed to walk behind his mother, alone. He also discusses how often Patrice was arrested for seeing Robert.

“On and off my mom would spend a week in jail. She would spend a day in jail here, a week again, a week and a half, two weeks,” he said in an interview with NPR. Though at the time Noah was too young to know what was going on. “My grandmother tells me stories of how, you know, because I would be at the house I wouldn’t notice that my mom was gone because she would be at work sometimes. So it was just like time when my mom would be gone and my grandma would tell me she’ll be back. And nobody knew where anybody was.”

Born A Crime won the James Thurber Prize for American Humor and two NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Literary Work.

Nyong’o, who actually asked Noah if she could play his mother after reading the book on the set of Black Panther, is also a producer on the project.

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