Lupita Nyong’o is starring in a new role, but this one is going to be super special. She’s been added to the cast of Super Sema, the new animated series featuring a young African girl name Sema. As Africa’s first kid superhero, Sema is on a mission to save all the books that have been taken by the evil Tobor.
The two-part special featuring the Oscar-winning actress is a free-to-stream series and will be available at 11AM ET today only on the YouTube Originals for Kids & Family channel.
When asked about her decision to play the part of Mama Dunia, the tree incarnated as the spirit of Super Sema’s mother, Nyong’o says that Sema is the kind of animated character she would have looked to during her childhood, not only as a darker-skinned Black girl, but a Black girl who tapped into the power of science, technology, engineering, and math. “Four things that I know very little about, and I was never really good at,” she told ESSENCE laughing. As opposed to the stereotypical superpowers of flying or invisibility, Super Sema uses her intelligence as she challenges the evil Tobor, who is on a mission to steal and destroy all of the books in the neo-African-futuristic community of Dunia.
“It’s applicable, we have it, we can hone it and it is well within our reach. That’s what Sema represents: a young girl that is using the power of her mind to save her society,” the Black Panther actress said. “That’s something that every child can do. It’s still very impossible to be invisible, but to apply yourself to learning and using the power of your mind, that is well within everybody’s reach.”
She continued, “It’s a really powerful show for the younger generation to have because these kinds of things create a sense of identity and confidence for kids to be able to see themselves in the shows they watch. I’m very proud there’s this African girl with an innate sense of justice that young kids are watching today.”
Ironically, the release of the series lands on World Book Day. Though Nyong’o admitted she knew very little about the national holiday, she recognizes the importance of literature and education for young Black girls. She cites days like World Book Day where we can celebrate the power of books and literacy as a “valuable thing” because “reading is an effective way of learning.” Moreover, not only is reading important but also the representation within the books we read which is demonstrated by Super Sema.
“Super Sema having books that reflect the myriad of human experiences in the world is important because it creates a scenario where kids can see themselves in imaginative spaces and increases their creative potential, as well as just their confidence and ability to feel a part of this world,” Nyong’o said.
In connection to today’s news cycle, she believes that the Black community can band together and use our superpower of empathy as a tool of healing. “Our ability is to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, and in order for justice to work, there’s got to be empathy. There’s a dearth of it is seen in a world where injustices can be so blatant and still somehow challenged. It’s about increased empathy and really holding each other up because it is exhausting. It takes more than an individual to be able to handle all this madness.”