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2019 British Academy Britannia Awards presented by American Airlines and Jaguar Land Rover - Arrivals

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Lupita Nyong’o has finally opened up about why she stepped away from Gina Prince-Bythewood’s box office hit The Woman King. 

Initially, fans were excited when news broke that the 39-year-old actress would be starring in the film as the loyal lieutenant Izogie. But months later, Nyong’o departed the film. Marvel star Lashana Lynch took over the role following her exit.


Here’s why she left The Woman King

During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter (THR), Nyong’o offered brief details about her departure from the film, noting how the decision was “amicable.

“I felt it wasn’t the role for me to play,” the Kenyan-Mexican star added.

The Woman King, which released in mid-September, tells the story of the Agojie, the epic female warrior unit that protected the West African kingdom of Dahomey between the 16th and 19th centuries. The unit was known for their intense military skills.

In the historical film, Viola Davis plays the fierce general, Nanisca, who trains the next generation of warriors to fight back against intruders who threaten to tear the kingdom apart.

Lupita’s Warrior Women documentary may have influenced her decision

Coincidentally, before entering the block-buster project, Nyong’o made a short documentary called Warrior Women, that explores the history of the Agojie. Throughout the doc, the actress grapples with the unit’s difficult history in the slave trade. Between the 17th and 18th centuries, the Dahomey and their all-female military regiment became notorious for capturing and selling African slaves to Europeans. THR hinted that after the actress completed the documentary she “was no longer attached” to the film. But this isn’t the first time the actress has expressed opposition to the Agojie’s history.

In 2019, Nyong’o also addressed her qualms with the military troupe during an interview with Gal-Dem.

“The Agojie women were involved in the slave trade and that has changed the dynamics and polarization of Benin to this day,” The Black Panther star said at the time. “On one hand, they are a symbol of the power of the feminine, but they are also the pain… they caused the pain.”

Nyong’o wasn’t alone in her sentiments. After The Woman King premiered, some viewers accused Gina Prince-Bythewood of downplaying the Dahomey’s involvement in the slave trade. A few movie critics even felt as though the film glorified and whitewashed the horrific historical period.

Despite backlash, The Woman King was a hit at the box-office. The film grossed over $76 million worldwide following its debut.


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