Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o turned narrator for Discovery’s documentary series Serengeti, directed by John Downer. In landing this gig, the leading actress changed the face (or indeed the voice) of storytelling when it comes to nature documentaries.
While most of us have never known anything other than Sir David Attenborough’s trademark voice on nature documentaries, Lupita has moved to change this stereotype. She voiced the international edition of Serengeti, while fellow Star Wars star John Boyega voiced the UK version.
The Star Wars, Black Panther and Jungle Book star lent her voice to Discovery Channel’s series titled Serengeti where she told the story of a group of different animals living in a number of African regions and how they not only navigate their need to survive but manage raising children and finding love.
Director Downer has been filming animals for 35 years and the new documentary gave him the chance to explore a wide cross-section of life. “There’s nowhere else on Earth where you get such a concentration of incredible animals,” from baboons to cheetahs and lions, the director said.
When producer Simon Fuller pitched the project to Downer, the director said his goal was to make it dramatic, giving narrative life to what these animals were experiencing.
Nyong’o, who narrates the U.S. version of “Serengeti”, said it presented her with a new way of looking at an area she knew only a bit better than most. Having grown up in Kenya and gone on safari, Nyong’o had never actually visited the Serengeti. “(I) consider it part of my national heritage and I love the idea of being the voice through which the stories are told,” she said.
Downer said he wanted to avoid narrator cliché, which is largely dominated by white and male voices. “The last thing I wanted was the standard white male voice. I hate anything that has become a cliche, and in this world (that’s) the last thing that you want.” Apart from Nyong’o, Downer has also roped in “Star Wars” actor John Boyega as a narrator for the U.K. version of the documentary.
Nyong’o said she’s proud to be involved with the documentary, which will, hopefully, open more doors for narrators of colour. “I took it on because, in and of itself, it was an interesting project.”