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Why Lupita Nyong’o’s ‘Us’ Voice Sounds So Creepy

Here’s where the voice actually came from, according to our interviews with both Nyong’o and Peele.

Even in his script, Peele kept details about who Red was close to the vest. One of the few clues he did include pertained to the voice. He described it simply as “scratchy” and hinted at a mysterious back story.

“I described it as a voice that hadn’t been used in years,” Peele said.

Those scarce details gave Nyong’o — who worked closely with Peele in developing the character — plenty of latitude. At a fashion event before preproduction, she found unlikely inspiration when she heard a speaker who reminded her of Peele’s description. It was Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who had spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological disorder that causes involuntary spasms of the larynx. Learning about the disorder helped ground her eventual performance.

“I was fascinated, and I started doing research,” Nyong’o said. “I met with people who have the condition and built it from there.”

Does Red have spasmodic dysphonia, or just sound like she does? We may never know. But Nyong’o’s research convinced her that the disorder was a plausible consequence of the grim back story Peele’s script had implied.

“It’s not really understood why it happens, or how it happens,” she said. “It could be a trauma in your life — someone dying, or a physical assault. It varies. For me, it felt very organic as an inspiration for Red, who’s had this kind of strangled past.”

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