Lupita Nyong'o's roles in “The Wild Robot” and “A Quiet Place” have a surprising connection: I 'spent three months in silence'

Watch the new trailer for the animated film about a lost robot — which Nyong'o says she was able to relate to as a "fish out of water."

Lupita Nyong'o has "dabbled" in animation, as she describes it to Entertainment Weekly — voicing the wolf Raksha in The Jungle Book, the Star Wars creature Max Kanata in various TV and movie projects, and Kenyan Shame Wizard Asha on Big Mouth and Human Resources — but the upcoming film The Wild Robot puts her voice front and center in the big screen adaptation of Peter Brown's bestselling book.

When Roz, the titular robot (real name ROZZUM unit 7134), washes up on an uninhabited island, she begins interacting with the wildlife around her, assuming them to be her intended owners. When she accidentally crushes a goose nest, she becomes the guardian of the one surviving egg. After the gosling hatches, she is responsible for teaching it how to eat, swim, and fly (as seen in the film's new trailer, below). With the help of a fox, Fink (Pedro Pascal), an opossum, Pinktail (Catherine O'Hara), and a wise old goose, Longneck (Bill Nighy), Roz guides the young goose, Brightbill (Kit Connor), on its journey of self-discovery — one she is on as well.

<p>Dreamworks Animation</p> Roz (voiced by Lupita Nyong'o) in 'The Wild Robot

Dreamworks Animation

Roz (voiced by Lupita Nyong'o) in 'The Wild Robot

Nyong'o has been on her own journey with the film for some three years now. She signed on after a "slow courtship" by director Chris Sanders (Lilo & Stitch, How to Train Your Dragon). "But as soon as I got into the booth and started working on it," she recalls, speaking exclusively with EW, "I gained a whole lot more trust and confidence in the kind of director that Chris is.... I really loved how he challenged what I was bringing to the table and expanded it. I definitely came in with my ideas and my opinions. He was very receptive to all of that, which was surprising and very exciting."

Related: Lupita Nyong'o reveals the career advice that Emma Thompson gave her: 'She did save my life'

Below, watch the trailer for the movie, in theaters Sept. 27, and read on for EW's chat with Nyong'o — who next starts in this summer's A Quiet Place: Day One — about bringing emotion to an automated robot, how she damaged her voice and almost had surgery because of a particular stretch of recording sessions, why she relates to Roz, and more.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Voiceover performance work is not something new for you, but in what ways has Roz been different from the others and challenged you?

LUPITA NYONG'O: Roz's arc is the most important arc of the narrative — it is her story that we are telling. So that responsibility of performing, figuring out what that arc is in a way that would hopefully be engaging and seductive and persuasive, that responsibility definitely fell on me in a new way. And Roz also is a robot, so that was a philosophical challenge for me, an intellectual challenge, because the thing that I would rely on as an actor is emotional depth, but a robot does not necessarily operate on emotional depth. So I was challenged with: How do I stay true to the given circumstances that my character is a robot and still give an emotionally charged and understandable performance? That was one of the big things that we discussed a lot. What kind of language approximates emotion without dipping into it? And how do I relay things as Roz, as a robot, that people can project emotion without her having to perform it?

Something that I think is so smart about the story is how Roz assimilates to, mimics, the other characters. That must have really helped and opened some doors for you.

Absolutely. As a robot, one of her strengths is mimicry. And so the fact that she's going on this journey of learning how to mimic emotion and all sorts of animal behavior is one way for sure that we were able to unlock that. And so one of the investigations I was doing as we went along is like, where did she learn this from? And then the script would develop to incorporate that. I thought that was really cool.

<p>Dreamworks Animation</p> Fink (voiced by Pedro Pascal), Roz (Lupita Nyong'o), and Brightbill (Kit Connor) in 'The Wild Robot'

Dreamworks Animation

Fink (voiced by Pedro Pascal), Roz (Lupita Nyong'o), and Brightbill (Kit Connor) in 'The Wild Robot'

Because I know it's you voicing Roz, I can hear you in there, but if I hadn't known Lupita Nyong'o is the voice of Roz, I don't think I would've been able to figure it out. And I mean that in a good way. Was that a conscious choice?

Oh, that's the highest compliment! [Laughs] Yes, that was definitely conscious. I wanted to find a voice that didn't feel like my own. But one of the things that Chris expressed when he came to me to play this role, when I asked him, "Why me?" he said that there is a natural warmth to my voice that he really loved. And so it was about not losing that, but finding, I guess, an American-inspired neutrality, I suppose is what I would say. [Laughs] And not shying away from who I am but just trying to find a voice that would feel more detached from me. In many ways, I am similar to Roz, where my accent is an amalgamation of my life experience — I have Kenyan influence, I have British, and I have American influence — and it becomes this hybrid sound that I've developed. So what would that be for Roz?

Chris mentioned there was a two-day session in particular that really stressed and damaged your voice. Can you tell me more about that? Was it a specific scene or sequence?

It was a four-day stretch, and we had been doing four- or five-hour sessions every day. And because Roz starts in a more factory-setting sound, she has this overall positive inflection and tone. And then, as she gets more integrated in the animal kingdom that she's a part of, her voice grows more. And so actually, the hardest part for me was her first voice, which is that very high-pitched, positive [sound] — it's a different resonance from my own, so it was quite acrobatic for me to do that. It was a day where we'd started off in that voice, go into her second and third voice, and then go back to the first voice. The repetition of going to that high-pitched, highly resonant head space resulted in me having a vocal injury. I ended up developing a vocal polyp and spent three months in silence.

Oh. Legitimately in silence.

Oh, yes. I was actually on my way to surgery, but my doctor said, "If you take care of your voice and use your inside voice — no whispering, because whispering is just as bad as shouting — and do a lot of vocal rest, you could stave off surgery. And so I was able to heal my voice by just shutting up.

You literally lived A Quiet Place.

[Laughs] I did. I really did. I didn't even realize that I did. I lived A Quiet Place.

Related: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn escape from New York in A Quiet Place: Day One first look

<p>Dreamworks Animation</p> Roz (Lupita Nyong'o) in 'The Wild Robot'

Dreamworks Animation

Roz (Lupita Nyong'o) in 'The Wild Robot'

In what ways did you relate to or understand Roz's journey?

I really did relate to Roz in the sense that she is an alien to this society, this animal kingdom that she has found herself in. But she doesn't know she's an alien, which is quite charming. She is not programmed to feel lost, so she goes about trying to find her purpose in this environment with a dogged sort of stubbornness. I relate in the sense that I have been a fish out of water. I have been, one could even say, an alien. I've traveled a lot, and I have been the stranger. I have been the foreigner in a world that I did not understand. Especially moving to the United States of America, that was a big cultural shift for me. It's challenging to have to adapt to a new environment and not lose yourself in the process, so I think that Roz's journey mirrors that for me — someone who remains, in essence, who they always were but adapts to their new environment through the support of the creatures around her and her ability to mimic and grow and to go beyond her own programming. For me, as a foreigner in America, I've often been faced with the question: Who am I? And who do I want to be? And I'm proud to say that I feel like I've never lost myself, even though I have felt as though I have been lost at times. But I feel very grounded in where I'm from, but also in the ability to be a citizen of the world.

How did the visuals and animation style of this film surprise you?

Chris had talked about how he wanted to create a technique that felt painterly, and not being well versed in the technical prowess of how animation happens, I took that at face value. But when I saw it, I was really moved because it feels vintage and new at the same time. There is a texture to it that is highly emotional. And I don't know how that happens. I don't know what exactly went into it to give it that effect, but there is a sense of a very modern technology embracing an ancient painterly language, and it makes it sentimental in a refreshing way, and it gives it gravitas.

Related: The 20 best animated movies on Netflix

<p>Dreamworks Animation</p> Roz (Lupita Nyong'o) and Brightbill (Kit Connor) in 'The Wild Robot'

Dreamworks Animation

Roz (Lupita Nyong'o) and Brightbill (Kit Connor) in 'The Wild Robot'

I completely missed the memo when the first trailer came out that you sang that version of "What a Wonderful World," which is just great. You also wrote and recorded "Sulwe's Song," which accompanied your children's book. Do you have bigger aspirations for a Broadway musical? Is that something that you want to do?

Not at all. [Laughs] Not at all. I do not have a confidence for all of that. But when they asked me to sing the song, I was like, "I am not a singer!" And they were like, "But we've heard your voice, and we would like it." So, I like to do small things, but I have a mad respect for the instrument that it takes to do a Broadway musical, and I will leave it to those who are better at it.

The Wild Robot is in theaters Sept. 27.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.