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Lupita Nyong'o learned the ukulele to portray a zombie-slaying teacher in Little Monsters

By Christian Long
Little Monsters Lupita Nyong'o

In the throes of a desperate situation, Lupita Nyong'o plays a character who finds herself facing an unimaginable threat head on, and ends up splattered with the blood of whoever (or whatever) stands in her way. 

While that could be describing Jordan Peele's Us, which got SXSW started off with a bang on Friday, it also applies to Nyong'o's other film playing at the festival this year, Little Monsters

The side-splitting zombie comedy, which first premiered at Sundance, stars Nyong'o as Miss Caroline, a radiantly positive preschool teacher in Australia. When she finds herself amidst a zombie outbreak, she fights to keep her students unafraid (and alive) after a zombie outbreak occurs while they're on a field trip at a petting zoo.

Nyong'o said it was "a dream role" for her. 

After a screening of Little Monsters at SXSW over the weekend, Nyong'o took the stage with writer/director Abe Forsythe. The Black Panther star told the crowd, which included SYFY WIRE, that she drew inspiration from an unexpected source.  

"I love Fraulein Maria in The Sound of Music, and she's my Fraulein," Nyong'o said, who explained that it was the character's devotion to preserving her students' childhood innocence that appealed to her. 

Miss Caroline's secret weapon for doing so was a ukulele, which she uses to lead sing-alongs ranging from childhood staples to Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off." Which meant that to prepare for the role, Nyong'o not only immersed herself in the Australian education system, she had to learn to play the ukulele, too. 

"I even asked [Abe], 'Are you gonna have a ukulele double?,'" Nyong'o confessed. To which Forsythe replied "I told her 'no, you can win an Oscar, you can learn to play the ukulele.'" 

Little Monsters was acquired through a joint partnership between Neon Films and Hulu back in January. No specifics have been announced, but the film will be getting some kind of theatrical release before it ends up on the streaming platform. Until that happens, be sure to check out all of SYFY WIRE's SXSW coverage here