By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act June 11, 2012 at 4:53PM
Boy... the cast of Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave continues to impress! Even if I had absolutely no idea what the project was about, with this cast, and director, I would definitely be interested to see whatever it was they were cooking up.
Alfre Woodard will join a cast that already includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Ruth Negga, Adepero Oduye, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Scoot McNairy, Garret Dillahunt, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti and Sarah Paulson.
Woodard will play Mistress Shaw, a former slave who climbes the Southern caste system. I read the book, but I don't immediately recall that character; and skimming through Vanessa's review of the actual script, there is no mention of a Mistress Shaw either. So I'm guessing it's likely a relatively *minor* role. Although I'll have to flip through the pages of the book again to see where exactly she's mentioned.
Maybe Vanessa remembers and can add to this in the comments section.
Also joining the cast is newcomer Lupita Nyong'o, who will reportedly play "a slave who is the object of both the affections and cruelty of Master Epps (Fassbender)," says The Hollywood Reporter. And I believe that answers another major question we've had about the project - and that is, who will play the role of Patsey.
We speculated that Adepero Oduye would play that role after it was announced that she'd been cast in the film; but it looks like Lupita will play Patsey.
Why do I think this character as described is indeed Patsey? Well, as I said in my book-to-film report, Patsey's story is a sad, sad one. She's considered the best cotton picker of Epps' slaves, and is also his mistress, although certainly not because she wants to be. Epps is married, and his wife is aware of his infidelities with Patsey, and for that reason, she routinely orders Patsey whipped. She hates Patsey, and of course blames her for Epps' indiscretions, even though she doesn't exactly have any say in the matter. So Patsey is forced to sleep with Epps, facing his wrath if she doesn't; but if she does sleep with him, she faces Epps' wife's wrath. There's a scene in which Patsey is whipped by Epps so cruelly that I felt it just from reading Northup's words as he described the scene. I don't know how McQueen will shoot that particular sequence, but it'll be incredibly painful to watch. If you don't already hate Epps by then (and really, given everything else he does prior, you should), this will most certainly do it.
So, with a description that reads "a slave who is the object of both the affections and cruelty of Master Epps," Patsey is really the only slave woman who fits that description.
Looking over Lupita's IMDB page (she's originally from Kenya by the way), she's actually primarily a filmmaker, and has done some crew work on other projects. But little in the acting department. Although on her Twitter page, which I found via Google search, she lists herself as an actor first, and says that she is a Yale School of Drama graduate!
But I'll do some further digging to see what more I can learn about her, and will report my findings here.
As I said in a previous post, Patsey's is a meaty role, and she'll certainly chew up quite a bit of screen time. So this could certainly be a showcase for Lupita's talents.