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How Lupita helped prepare Junior Nyong’o for Showmax’s animation, “Twende”

In the captivating realm of animation, Junior Nyong’o, brother to the renowned Lupita Nyong’o, steps into the limelight with his first animated role in the Showmax Original series, “Twende.”

The show, set in the bustling fictional East African city of Milima, introduces audiences to the whimsical character Twende, a boda-boda-riding pangolin who embraces the philosophy that ‘life is about the journey, not the destination.’

Junior, an accomplished graduate with an MFA in Acting from UC San Diego, showcases his diverse talents as he lends his voice to Twende.

This animated venture offers a delightful departure from his previous roles in major theater productions, including Shakespearean classics like Hamlet, Taming of the Shrew, and King Lear.

The story follows Twende and his best friend, navigator Nuru (voiced by June Gachui), as they ferry residents through the vibrant city of Milima. The first five episodes of “Twende” will be available for streaming on Showmax starting December 1, providing a visual feast for animation enthusiasts.

In an interview, Junior shared insights into his venture into animation, expressing his admiration for the storytelling potential of the medium.

Reflecting on his motivation, he mentioned, “I’m really doing this for my nieces and nephews, who I hope can fall in love with animation the way I did.”

The opportunity to voice Twende came about during the pandemic in 2020, Junior said, “My cousin Kwame told me that an animation about a pangolin was looking for its lead voice actor. Without thinking too much about it, I expressed an interest in auditioning for it. I had never even heard of a pangolin before!”

He continued, “I started to check out YouTube videos about the animal to get an idea of how it moved about the world, and what kinds of sounds it made. Although that didn’t necessarily inform my performance of the character in a tangible way, it really piqued my interest – this really sweet-looking endangered animal!”

He revealed that Lupita played a role in helping him prepare.

“I called my sister for some advice and tips on voiceover work. We geeked out about what a cool opportunity it would be, and so I went into the audition feeling very excited and ready to play and be receptive to all the director’s thoughts,” Junior explained.

Despite the initial unfamiliarity with pangolins, Junior embraced the character with enthusiasm. His connection with the animated world deepened when he saw the sketches of Twende and other characters, offering a visual glimpse into Milima’s vibrant environment.

The humor in “Twende” shines through in moments like Twende’s amusing infatuation with a smoothie machine in the pilot episode.

Junior’s infectious laughter echoed as he described the delightful script, emphasizing the brilliance of characters like Boss (played by Elsaphan Njora), a hyena managing a boda boda agency.

Collaborating with June Gachui, who voices Nuru, added an extra layer of joy to the project. Junior expressed gratitude for the opportunity to record the pilot episode together, describing it as a “gift” to play off each other’s energy.

Adding, ” I’ve grown up admiring June’s work as an actor and performer, and so to get the chance to be best buds for this really sweet show was such a gift.”