Exclusive: Florence Kasumba Talks Marvel’s Black Panther & Being Part Of The Dora Milaje

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Exclusive: Florence Kasumba Talks Marvel’s Black Panther & Being Part Of The Dora Milaje
Posted by Wilson Morales

February 12, 2018

The wait is almost over as Marvel Studios’ Black Panther is ready to hit theaters on February 16. 

Directed by Ryan Coogler from a screenplay he co-wrote with Joe Robert Cole, the cast includes Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Sterling K. Brown, Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Florence Kasumba, Shaunette Renée Wilson, Isaach de Bankolé, and John Kani.

Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” follows T’Challa who, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. But when a powerful old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king—and Black Panther—is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people and their way of life.

For Florence Kasumba, who plays Ayo, a member of the Dora Milaje, the Ugandan born, German actress has the pleasure of being introduced in the MCU when she first appeared alongside Boseman in Captain America: Civil War. At the same time, Kasumba is also one of the few Black women to be a Marvel and DC film, having played a Senator in Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman. She also appeared in the the NBC TV series Emerald City and will next be seen in Duncan Jones’ Mute and Jon Favreau‘s live action version of The Lion King.

In speaking exclusively with Blackfilm.com, Kasumba spoke about getting the role and also being part of Wonder Woman.

How did you get the role for Captain America: Civil War?

Florence Kasumba: For me, it was a big shock because I had not been interested in comics. I actually wasn’t interested in the superheroes movies but after playing the part, I thought, “Wait a minute, we’re talking about heroes and female bodyguards,” and all of a sudden I was interested, thinking “where can that be?” I wasn’t used to that. I’m lucky to be part of the Marvel Universe.

Did you do any research into the character and did you know that there would be a stand-alone film for Black Panther?

Florence Kasumba: I didn’t know at the time and I didn’t do any research because every time I play a part, I take the information from the script. I don’t want to be influenced unless you play someone and it’s a biography. In this case I knew who I am and what my job is; and it was just a short moment where you see my character walking in. Therefore, I don’t want to be influence from what was written before. I just go with “what does the script say?” and “what does the director want me ti do?” and then go.

Did you then do any research when you heard you were coming back for Black Panther?

Florence Kasumba: You know what? Yes and no. I wanted to know who are these women and what is it that they do, but again, when I started filming, I read the script and I’m happy that I started doing more and more research towards the end. I was happy that I didn’t do it before because I didn’t want to be influenced. I trusted Ryan (Coogler) and knew that if I did my thing and there’s something that doesn’t work, he would tell me. I didn’t want to go in knowing if I had read this or that, I could be wrong. I wanted to be fresh.

How would you best describe your character Ayo?

Florence Kasumba: She’s a woman I love playing because these women are so highly skilled. They are the bodyguards of Black Panther, the royal family. They put the country and the royal family before them and that is something that I really liked about the movie. It’s about the bigger picture. That’s what I loved about the character. I also loved their look. Where can you be a woman with no hair?

Did you have to do any physical training for the role?

Florence Kasumba: I’m a trained dancer anyway. It’s something I learned since I was a child and I studied dancing. I also do martial arts. I started years ago training in Shaolin Kung Fu, Tai Chi Chen, Qi Gong and Tai Chi Yang. So, I’m training all the time. When I got this part, so I have to train even more. I went from going once a week doing martial arts to almost training every day so by the time I started filming, I was actually overtrained. What I go through in Berlin when I trained with the Shaolin monk is so much harder than what I do when I trained for the film because everything is about staying safe and not injuring ourselves, although that can still happen. But I was well prepared, but not just three to four months before the gig, but I basically prepared since I was a child.

How was working with Danai, Lupita and the rest of the Dora Milaje? We don’t often see female soldiers in film.

Florence Kasumba: That is true. That’s one of the things I loved about the movie. When we prepared for the film, we all had to go through training. We had to warm up first before we started shooting. We had to be flexible and be ready to start filming at 8am and maybe finished by 8pm at night and during that time, running around. We still had to work around that and it was amazing. It wasn’t like we sat around and talked for hours. Everyone had to focus on their choreography and their fight sequences and learning their weapons. When you go through that, you become a union.

Can you talk about the costumes?

Florence Kasumba: It’s not only the costumes, it’s also the makeup. Of course, when we go the trailers in the morning, we don’t look like that. We have people working on our faces and our bodies. We put on these amazing costumes and I feel happy that I’m allowed to call this my job.

How does it make you feel that you’re part of this film and part of the Dora Milaje?

Florence Kasumba: It makes me very happy and proud because they had to look and find these people to play these women. They took the time to train us and help us become these characters, but on the other hand, I’m lucky one of the people that they chose. There are a lot of good people out there that could have also been in the movie. I’m just very grateful. If you get the chance to play this, it’s going to be very special. I’m happy that young kids are going to see women like us. “Oh wow. They are dark-skinned and have no hair and they are so strong!” This is just nice.

Not only are you in Black Panther, but you were also in Wonder Woman.

Florence Kasumba: When I get cast in these parts, it’s about the job. They tell about the scene and what happened before and this is what happens right now when you film, and you just do it, and a year later you get to see it on the big screen. Again, I was allowed to be part of it. To be part of this group of strong women that take action.

Are you aware that you’re one of the few black women to be part of the DC and Marvel universe?

Florence Kasumba: You know what. I’m becoming more and more aware of that. I didn’t think about it earlier, but of course, people keep asking me the same question. I’m so proud being an Amazon and a member of the Dora Milaje. It can’t get better than that.

Although you’ve worked on other projects, what does Woman Woman and Black Panther do for your career knowing the exposure it has presented for you?

Florence Kasumba: That’s an interesting question. The thing is that I understand that these films do well, but I also live in a different environment. I live in Germany and if you don’t watch these movies, you have no idea who I am. Therefore, I always try to stay humble because I know these movies are a big deal when I’m here in the United States and folks will recognize me from them, and it’s a nice feeling, but I’m also very aware of the fact that everything goes so fast in this business and you should never the people in this business who are working with you and the new people that are coming out. You can be very successful in one year and you have these young talented people showing up and all of a sudden you’re out. It’s not that extreme, but I always want to enjoy where I’m at in that moment. I also know I’m not the only one there and things are changing. That’s just how it is.

How was working with Ryan Cooler and Patty Jenkins knowing these are the biggest films are their careers?

Florence Kasumba: That is something I always feared. To be honest, I get that question asked a lot. When I get on a new project, and I’ve done so many projects, I don’t think about if these people know what they are doing. I just assume they know what they are doing. My job is that I know my text, I know who I play, and I know the scenes I’m in. I’ve never had a bad experience. I love being directed by people who know what they are doing.

Have you had a chance to read any of the Black Panther comics?

Florence Kasumba: Towards the end of filming Black Panther, I started reading some of the Black Panther comics. Not all of them. I have them on my Kinder. Depending on where I am, like when I’m on the set, I’ll start reading the comics. It’s something I hadn’t done before. Even with my kids, I would be, “Oh my God, I just read this and you should have a look at this.” It’s something as a family we enjoy.

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