‘Us’: Jordan Peele switches horror spotlight to a black family

Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke star in Jordan Peele’s horror film “Us,” about a family facing invaders during a summer getaway. USA TODAY

Somewhere in the middle of writing his new movie Us, Jordan Peele had an epiphany. There was a black family at the center of thisthing, and the Oscar-winning filmmaker of Get Out alongtime fright-fest connoisseur recognized hed never seen that before in a horror film.

I realized that elementwas pushing the boundaries of representation that have been established and that that was an important thing, says Peele, who won a screenwriting Academy Award for his 2017 directorial debut.

The Armitage clan at the center of his social thriller Get Out was white and also really evil. The families dealing with crazy circumstances infilms such as Poltergeist, The Shining and Hereditary are also white. Butin Us” (in theaters Friday), the Wilsons mom Adelaide (Lupita Nyongo), dad Gabe (Winston Duke), teen daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and youngson Jason (Evan Alex) are an African-American family who come face-to-face withmalevolent doppelgangers and have to survive a night with their lookalikes trying to kill them.

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Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) protects her children (Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph) from sinister invaders in “Us.”(Photo: CLAUDETTE BARIUS/UNIVERSAL PICTURES)

When I did my first movie, I was just hoping it wouldn’t get shut down, Peele says, laughing. Now I’m in a place whereI get to say, Look, I’m going to have this black family at the center (because) that’s what I want to see. So there is a special-ness, a now-ness.

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Many moviegoers will connect with various family members, and Peele thinks they’re all a little part of him though afterhaving his first son, Beaumont, with wife Chelsea Peretti in 2017, the director could relate more to Gabe. “He’s the average American dad that we all recognize,” Peele says.

Duke’s goal with Gabe was to give his fun-loving (at least until the horror stuff starts) father a familiar appeal for the audience and have himfeel a lot like Homer Simpson, like they could invite him into their living rooms one time a week for 24 years.

Gabe (Winston Duke) and his daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) arm themselves for combat in “Us.”(Photo: CLAUDETTE BARIUS/UNIVERSAL)

The “Black Panther” starappreciates Peele’s progressive workin a genre that usually isnt in support of blackness, he says. The black family no longer becomes the primary and first casualty. You see them as heroes. You see them as the all-American nuclear family. It’s not primarily white faces in those positions and that’s really refreshing.

Adds Wright Joseph: “Representation is really important for young black kids in America. To see people that look like them in a horror movie, or just any movie, really makes us feel so special.”

Jordan Peele embraces his latest role with ‘Us’:’I’m a truth seeker in my work’

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‘Us’: Jordan Peele switches horror spotlight to a black family

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