Exclusive: Letitia Wright On Playing Shuri In Marvel’s Black PantherPosted by Wilson Morales
February 9, 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.
While the world will get to know Letitia Wright as Shuri, the youngest and tech savvy of T’Challa, the Guyanese-born British actress had her breakout role in 2016’s Urban Hymm. Aside from being featured in the Liam Neeson thriller The Commuter, she also had a key episode in Season 4 to Netflix’s Black Mirror. Next up will be Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One followed by reprising her role as Shuri in Avengers: Infinity War.
In speaking exclusively with Blackfilm.com, Wright spoke about getting the role, her tech knowledge and the action figures of herself.
How did this role come about for you?
Letitia Wright: It came about just by the normal way of auditions. I sent two tapes to LA, and then it got really good feedback from the cast director I guess. They asked for me to come for a screen test with Chadwick, just to see if we would get on and we did. Then I did another one in Atlanta, and yeah. Ever since then I was a part of the project and I’m really happy to be a part of it.
Now, before the audition did you have any love for comic books, specifically Marvel?
Letitia Wright: Oh man, no I wasn’t a comic book fan. I never really liked comic books, but I started to like it more and more as I started to research more about Black Panther. I liked it even more.
As you did your research, and I’m sure you’ve read a few comics, what’s the difference of Shuri that people are going to see onscreen than what they know of her from the comic books?
Letitia Wright: From the comic books Shuri is really fierce. She’s got that focus, she wants to be the black panther. She’s much older as well, and she’s been training as well in the comic book. In the film, we pull back a little bit on that and we make her a bit younger. She’s a teenager and she’s into technology, that’s where her focus is. It got more lighter, and much more positive and we see her have a great relationship with her brother as she’s in support of him being King. Yeah, that’s how we’re going to see it compared to the comic book.
How tech savvy are you?
Letitia Wright: Tech savvy, I’m not that great. I love Apple products, that’s the only products I can actually function with. I can’t hack anybody or break codes and stuff, but I leave that all to Shuri cause she loves create stuff.
What was the set like you know, as you guys were filming this and as you’re seeing the marketing explode on the internet?
Letitia Wright: It was great because Hannah our production designer, did such a great job. I remember looking at some of the set designs just from the pictures, and then seeing it being brought to real life was amazing. Just to have that set there you know, there was a few green screens and stuff like that, but the skeleton of the set was always there. It was just really cool, especially in the lab. I really love the lab the most.
Can you talk about the costumes that Ruth Carter designed for your character?
Letitia Wright: The costumes are great. Ruth did amazing sketches for each of our characters, and also the concept photos that Ryan picked for what he wanted from the very beginning for the characters. Ruth and her team bringing it to life and bringing it together was great. She’s an amazing, amazing costume designer. She has such an eye and it’s specific to each person too, you know. Shuri is different, Shuri is a lot of colors and just very cool sneakers and stuff like that. Yeah, Ruth really worked really hard. Everybody in all the departments worked so hard.
What do you make of the action figures of yourself?
Letitia Wright: Oh, that’s crazy because I’m holding one right now. That’s crazy, because they brought me one cause I kept complaining about not getting one. I just want 5,000 Shuri’s in my house, but I literally am playing with one right now. I think it’s really cool, man. I never imagined that I’d be a toy, and now that I am, I’m very grateful and just happy that maybe a kid will go in to the store and want to buy a Shuri toy? And a Killmonger toy and a Nakie toy, and an Okeye toy and just have fun. I used to play with barbie dolls and stuff when I was a kid, and just to know that I’m now a part of a collection of toys in the world is a pretty amazing feeling.
Do you feel a sense of responsibility that when people see this movie, they’re going to see that most of the females if not all of them, have this sense of stability, intelligence, fierce, strong personality from the Dora Milaje to Nakia, to yourself?
Letitia Wright: Yes. Yeah, I do feel that it is a responsibility I guess, but all in all it’s just people coming together to bring something different to the screen. For us, we just wanted to reflect real women who are in the world, and hopefully it can inspire someone to feel proud that that this film is really embracing different types of women across the board. Yeah, it is a responsibility and it’s a cool one as long as it has a positive effect then that’s cool too.
Part of the scenes that we saw you in has some comedic flare to it. I know in one of the clips, there’s a scene where you and Chad are doing this handshake. Was that improvised? Or was that part of the script?
Letitia Wright: That was not a part of the script, however what happened was I came on set and I knew this was a scene that myself and Chad was going to do, and this is the first time the world will see them bonding together. I just figured man, they should have a handshake. I was like, “Chad, they should have a handshake.”As everybody’s setting up for the cameras and stuff, we created one. I thought maybe Ryan would say, “Hey, don’t do that.” But he let me keep it, and myself and Chad on the spot just made up something that was really ultra cool, and incorporated Chadwick’s classic … you know, the W to the chest. Then we did it, and then they put it on the clip in one of the trailers and then everybody started to make a GIF out of it. Now I’m a meme, it’s kind of cool you know. That’s how that handshake came about.
Now you talked about how you got the role, but why did you decide you wanted to do this? What was the appeal for you to doing this movie?
Letitia Wright: Just the fact that it was different, and just the fact that I never read a character like this before. Not only is she considered one of the super heroes or you know, superheroes in a Marvel comic book, but she’s also super smart and super intelligent. She’s not a one dimensional character, she’s just well-rounded and fun. She can be of inspiration to others, and it’s a joyful part to play. I’m really happy that I got the opportunity to play this character, and I hope that other people really enjoy her as much as I enjoyed bringing her to life on screen.
Folks saw you in December in Black Mirror and they’re going to see you in Black Panther. When you’re looking at roles, what is it that makes you say yes?
Letitia Wright: Just the quality of it. Firstly, of course the story. If it has something to say, and I don’t want to just be a part of something just to do it. I’m always thinking I’m honored to be a vessel for this character, can I do this character? Can I bring this character to life, you know? If I’m meant to play it, I’ll play it. I always think about those things and go in and do my best and try to bring an interpretation of the character that hopefully will be a good interpretation of it and a good version of that character. If it’s meant to happen, yeah then we go off and we film and we do it. Then you have projects like Black Mirror and Black Panther that you can be proud about. That’s how I pick the part.