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“When People See Shuri on the Screen, They’re Just Joyful”: Letitia Wright Talks the Significance of Her Black Panther Role

Image of Letitia Wright as Shuri in Marvel's "Black Panther" Credit: Kwaku Alston/©Marvel Studios 2018

Letitia Wright, who plays Shuri in Marvel’s Black Panther, recently chatted with The Hollywood Reporter about the importance of her role as one of the smartest scientists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, her working relationship with Chadwick Boseman, and about the “love and light” that she hopes to spread with the role.

Appropriately, the question of representation came up pretty immediately. The Hollywood Reporter asked her what it was like to play “someone as intelligent as Shuri in the STEM field, where black women and girls are underrepresented in general.”

“I grew up seeing so many stereotypes on TV,” Wright said, “and I didn’t want to play that as well. This moment right now is years of prayer that’s coming together to play such a character that … hopefully a lot of people can be inspired by. So for me it’s a dream come true really. It’s something positive in the world, and that’s the type of person I am.”

Wright also recognized the power of Shuri to inspire future scientists. “It can spark the brain of another kid that loves technology and loves science,” she said, “and lets them see that that’s really cool and encourage them to create the next gadget that’s going to help cure a disease or something.”

“For me, it’s about spreading love and light as well,” she continued. “Shuri brings that to the screen. When people see Shuri on the screen they’re just joyful, they leave the cinema like happy, like, ‘Yo, she made me laugh.’ … I’m proud to be a young black girl doing this, but also as much as this is for young black women to be inspired, [it’s for] all women of all ethnicities, of all races to be inspired. And young boys too, young men too from all walks of life to be inspired by this film.”

The discussion eventually turned to the relationship between Wright’s character Shuri and her older brother, Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa. The Hollywood Reporter mentioned how convincing their relationship seemed in the film, and asked about whether that connection was reflected in their working relationship.

“It’s like it was already there … I found out on the night of our premiere, at the party, I think it was Chadwick’s agent was saying that after the screen test he [Boseman] was really saying that he really hoped that I would be his sister. And that was wonderful for me to know, because prior to meeting him, I really felt like he would be my brother. I just felt like there would be a soul connection and there was. And immediately when I met him for my screen test it was like, ‘Okay, this brother’s got some soul.'”

Their connection apparently continued once filming started. “[There were] days on set where I can see like, ‘Okay, he has a huge day, he’s really just focused,’ I would just go to him, give him a hug, tell him I love him. And then he’ll just be like giggling in the corner or smile. And that’s how we are. He does it for me too. He would just come up, give me a hug and then just we share love with each other knowing that we did the part and do what we have to do. So what you guys see on screen is literally, it’s pretty much like, ‘Oh, man, this is ordained.’ We haven’t had to go out and like really sit down and like, ‘Oh, my God. I have to get to know him.’ No, it was just there. It’s literally just there.”

Boseman spoke about Wright in similarly warm terms. “[On Day One] I looked up at her and she was like, ‘Why you being so serious?'” he said. “It’s what little sisters do to their big brothers. I just enjoy having her around. Her joy, her spunk, it gave us all something. It gave us all a little piece of, I guess, the inspiration for the movie that we needed.”

Lastly, Wright discussed Shuri’s future in Infinity War, which is hinted at in Black Panther. “I think it’s a good setup,” she said. “It just shows that she had something to contribute in terms of her wisdom and her knowledge and just her dopeness. So yeah, I think it sets it up really, really nicely to just be able to contribute wherever she’s needed in the Marvel Universe, if she’s needed anywhere else. It’s a really good place to be.”

(via The Hollywood Reporter; image: Kwaku Alston / Marvel Studios)

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