Lupita Nyong'o conquers her cat phobia for "A Quiet Place: Day One"

Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, known for her versatile roles in “12 Years a Slave,” “Black Panther” and “Us,” takes on two unique challenges in her latest film, “A Quiet Place: Day One,” a prequel to the popular “A Quiet Place” franchise: acting without speaking and working alongside cats.

In “A Quiet Place: Day One,” Nyong’o’s character Samira returns to her hometown, hoping for a slice of pizza from her favorite spot. Instead, she finds herself in a harrowing ordeal that might be her last day on Earth. Accompanied by a near-stranger named Eric, played by Joseph Quinn, and her cat Frodo, Samira navigates an alien invasion in a perilous landscape filled with burning buildings, flooded subways and wrecked cars.

Cat therapy 

Before taking on the role, Nyong’o had always found cats difficult and was terrified of them, avoiding being in the same room with one. She considered cats suspicious and even suggested using a different animal, like an armadillo. To overcome her fear, Nyong’o underwent a form of cat therapy. 

They hired someone to bring cats to my home, and on the first day, they just released the cats in my presence,” she said. “I stood on the other side of the room and asked questions about why they were doing what they were doing.”

Nyong’o not only was able to work alongside her feline co-star but she said she fell in love with them during filming and adopted an orange tabby cat named “Yo-Yo” last year.

The silence of survival

In the prequel, out Friday, silence is the key to survival against an alien invasion. Nyong’o, familiar with the first two movies, admitted she was too scared to watch them in cinemas. She joined the franchise excited to participate in the immersive experience the film gives its audience and said she found the acting process quite liberating. As an actor, she said she often looks for what’s happening between the lines to bring a script to life. 

“So when you strip away the words, you’re left with something more primal, more immediate. And you have to be very present with your acting partners to know exactly what’s going on,” she said.

Discussing her on-screen chemistry with co-star Joseph Quinn, Nyong’o noted their effortless connection. “We didn’t really get to know each other until we were working on this movie, but there was a trust because we have the same work ethic,” she said. “He’s very open.”

Nyong’o hopes audiences will connect with the film’s themes of meeting and bonding with strangers. “In this film, it’s perfect strangers and what ties them together,” she said.

Reflecting on her career, Nyong’o expressed gratitude for being recognized as an Academy Award winner. “It used to make me laugh, I was so tickled every time I heard it in the beginning. Now it’s warm. It’s a warm feeling of something I accomplished,” she said.

“A Quiet Place: Day One” will be in theaters this Friday. The film is distributed by Paramount Pictures, a division of Paramount Global.

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