The latest glimpse behind the curtain comes by way of star Winston Duke, who previously worked alongside Lupita Nyong'o in Ryan Coogler's Oscar-nominated Black Panther. Duke explained what kind of mindset he was in following the release of the Marvel instaclassic and its immediate box office and critical embrace in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
"I loved playing M'Baku, but that's not who I am," he said. "I want to convey the full spectrum of masculinity. I want people to say that this guy helped change the definition of masculinity onscreen 40 years from now. I'm trying to be that person."
Not long after Black Panther's release, Duke was at an Academy Awards afterparty when he decided to introduce himself to Peele, who bagged an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Get Out that year.
At the time, Peele had already cast Nyong'o in Us as Adelaide Wilson (and Red) but was still in search of an actor for the film's male lead, Gabe Wilson (and Abraham). "I'm not afraid to go up to people and just say, 'Hi, I'm new, and I'm a big fan,'" Duke recalled of that fateful meeting. "You can only be 'new' once, so I took full advantage of that."
At first, Peele feared that Duke's stature could hurt the believability of the film's premise, though his worries were quickly put to rest by a performance that showed the actor had a "charisma that just stole scenes and really left an impression." Prepping for the two-part role took weeks and involved a close studying of noted genre classics like The Shining, as well as some assistance from a dramaturge. Duke saw the opportunity as a chance to show a truly multifaceted black male lead.
"I wanted [Gabe] to be thick, sexy, funny, playful, serious, deadly—I wanted him to be everything," he said. The "main inspiration" for the creation of Gabe came from Peele himself, from whom Duke says he borrowed select mannerisms and a sense of nonchalance. Peele, however, sees the character as being a bit more similar to Duke.
Us is out March 22. In the meantime, revisit the full version of that creepy trailer remix of Luniz's "I Got 5 on It" and see what Nyong'o had to say about her own creative process, which included napping in between takes.