From the moment Lupita Nyong’o (voice of “Raksha”) & Giancarlo Esposito (voice of “Akela”) walked into the room to discuss their roles in The Jungle Book, I was excited to hear what they had to say. Although I had interviewed Lupita Nyong’o for her role as Maz Kanata in Star Wars, I was excited to chat with her again. I loved hearing how deeply she cares for her mother and her passion for what she does during this interview. Oh, and don’t even get me started on Giancarlo Esposito! He is the kind of person that you can spend hours with chatting about life and learning so much from. After some of the things he said, he could have dropped the mic and walked away (but thankfully he didn’t). Here’s what they had to say…

The Jungle Book Interview with Lupita Nyong’o and Giancarlo Esposito

Group photo with Lupita Nyong'o & Giancarlo Esposito "The Jungle Book" press junket at the Beverly Hilton on April 4, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California

What drew you to your role in the film?

Lupita Nyong’o: “…what appealed to me was this idea of playing a mother, something that I hadn’t yet done and to do it in voice-over. Yeah! Just opened myself up to something new! I have always loved children. I been fantasizing about motherhood since I was probably 2 ½ years old…But I also had a kind of fear about being a mother, and doing work like this makes you really put yourself there. I like being put in those kinds of uncomfortable places that help me to expand my empathy. So that was what attracted me to Raksha.

Interview with Lupita Nyong'o and Giancarlo Esposito

Giancarlo Esposito: “I had a very unusual story…I’d done a show called “Revolution” with John Favrau and our show had finished, and he called me and said, “would you come and do a commercial with me for one day?” and it was the trailer of Destiny. The character was reading The Law of the Jungle to his son…I stepped away from reading this and had a conversation with John about Rudyard Kipling, and the Jungle Book…We had a wonderful and marvelous conversation, which ended when he said well, wouldn’t it be wonderful to do this movie again and re-envision it for a new generation? A year and a half later he called me”

He was excited to be a part of this version of the film

“…To be able to be in this particular story, which is told in a new way, with more eminent danger, yet with a great deal of compassion and understanding for the world which it’s placed in, which is our world of now.

What is one thing that hope children learn from your character?

Lupita Nyong’o: “Well, I think what Mogley is dealing with is finding belonging and what Raksha offers him is home. Her… as home. And as an anchor. And I think that’s a really important thing for children to have so that they can veer away from it, but always be able to come back when they need to.

Giancarlo Esposito: “…what I want people to get from this movie is that sense of freedom, that sense of abandonment in the ride, of this film, the sense of connection with family, even if you don’t have a family. The sense of trust that someone’s gonna adopt you and take care of you. That sense of really being engaged by the world…This is what life’s about! It’s not about all the other things we may think it’s about…and I think people are gonna feel it in this film.

What was the recording process like

Giancarlo Esposito: “John put up three different cameras that sort of in a way captured our motion so that he could blend our physicality with the physicality that he was planning for the wolves… I learned so much from just being in the studio a couple of different times…it was interesting and fascinating because you weren’t really seeing picture. You had to take your own timing the first time we were in the studio and then the next time we had sort of a rough picture. The next time the rough picture was then combined with Lupita’s voice, so then you had something to play off of. But it was a process. A very, very, very interesting process that was fun!”

Interesting Fun Facts about Lupita Nyong’o and Giancarlo Esposito as it relates to The Jungle Book

  • Giancarlo Esposito read The Jungle Book with his mother when he was about ten years old.
  • This was the very first role that Lupita Nyong’o performed after I got off the 12 Years a Slave train (as she lovingly refers to it).

Words of wisdom from Giancarlo Esposito

“…We want to remember to be playful! We’re here in this wonderful and incredible world!…the grand architect of the universe created this playground and we’re supposed to have fun, and we’re supposed to play. So when you think of the four letter word called “work”, you want to think, how do I translate that into play? To be playful? To help bring people to their best selves? To not be so about me, me, me all the time. It took me years to learn this…And now I can play more! I just want to serve up the goodness and grace that’s been given to me because I made a choice that lined up with my passion.”

Not only did I get a Jungle Book interview with Giancarlo Esposito<, I also saw him at the after party and snapped this selfie with him

Leanette Fernandez with Giancarlo Esposito R

Don’t forget that The Jungle Books opens in theaters 4/15/16.

*I was invited by Disney to cover the press junket for The Jungle Book. All opinions are my own. Thank you for the pics Becky Fry/My Sparkling Life