5 FILMS, INCLUDING STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015); ONE ACADEMY AWARD.
Only three feature-length movies she has and yet possess us she does, as Yoda might say. Of those three, one could be categorized as kinda so-so (Non-stop, where she played a flight attendant while Liam Neeson went through his dour heroics), but the other two were sonic booms. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, Nyong’o made her motion-picture debut as Patsey in Steve McQueen’s unsparing, unrelenting 12 Years a Slave, a portrait of pain, desperation, fortitude, and beatitude that enthralled critics and earned her the Academy Award for best supporting actress. Her incandescence on the red carpet during this 2013 awards season—when she also collected supporting-actress noms from BAFTA, the Screen Actors Guild, and those crazy cats at the Golden lobes—established her place in a new constellation about to form. Last year, Nyong’o joined the embattled heavens as Maz Kanata, pirate queen, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, that little movie you may have heard of that all the Jedis have been talking about at the dojo. She will almost certainly trip the lightsaber fantastic in the force awakenings ahead.