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Lupita Nyong'o apologizes for saying 'Us' character was inspired by disorder

"The thought that I would, in a way, offend them was not my intention," Nyong'o said.
Image: Actress Lupita Nyong'o arrives for the New York premiere of \"US\" at the Museum of Modern Art
Actress Lupita Nyong'o arrives for the New York premiere of "US" at the Museum of Modern Art on March 19, 2019 in New York City. (Johannes Eisele / AFP - Getty Images

Actress Lupita Nyong'o apologized after facing backlash for comments she made that one of the characters she plays in the horror film "Us" was inspired by a disorder that impacts people who have experienced emotional or physical trauma.

"The thought that I would, in a way, offend them was not my intention," Nyong'o said on "The View" on Thursday. "In my mind, I wasn't interested in vilifying or demonizing the condition. I crafted Red with love and care."

In Jordan Peele's latest movie about a family who encounters their evil doppelgängers, Nyong'o plays two characters by the names of Adelaide Wilson and Red.

During an interview with Variety at the Los Angeles premiere of “Us,” the actress said she drew inspiration for Red's husky, shaky voice from spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological condition that causes a person's voice to go into periods of spasm.

The disorder affects roughly 50,000 people in North America and is triggered by "illnesses such as viral infection, head trauma, bronchitis, surgery, or a stressful event," according to the National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association, which states that the number of people affected by the disorder varies because some with it are not diagnosed or misdiagnosed.

Image: Lupita Nyong'o in "US"
Lupita Nyong'o in "US"Universal Pictures

The actress' comments quickly drew criticism from disability and disorder organizations including RespectAbility, a nonprofit which fights stigmas placed on people with disabilities.

"The issue at hand is that in order to intentionally achieve a creepy effect, the creative choice was to make the character have a disability — and demonizing the disability," the organization wrote in a lengthy post on its website.

The National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association also issued a statement criticizing the actress, saying that for many people with the disorder their voices are considered "haunting."

"We applaud the work of Ms. Nyong’o and this opportunity to educate about this rare voice condition, but for the Spasmodic Dysphonia community, this disorder does not end when the movie is over," the organization said.

Nyong'o said on "The View" that when she said her character was inspired by the disorder she had hoped to shed light on it, not offend anyone.

"In mentioning, spasmodic dysphonia, I may have been disproportionate to what it actually is in the film," she said. "I say sorry to anyone I may have offended."

A spokesperson for RespectAbility said it a statement Friday that the organization appreciates Nyong'o's apology, but said the practice of using disabilities to villainize a movie character "needs to end."

“We’re all on a learning journey to be sensitive to all marginalized communities whether it be race, gender, sexual orientation/gender identity, disability, religion or anything else," the spokesperson said. "We hope Nyong’o will use this experience to continue lifting up other marginalized groups."