Daniel Kaluuya and Letitia Wright Talks Black Panther
If you’ve seen or read anything I’ve written about Black Panther so far, you know I’ve been singing the praises of Letitia Wright who plays Shuri in the film. She completely steals every scene she’s in during the film. I wasn’t sure what to expect before seeing the film but she did an outstanding job. Oh, and of course Daniel Kaluuya delivers an amazing performance as well.
We sat chatting in the interview room awaiting the arrival of the first pair of talent we’d be interviewing from the film. Fresh off our excitement of watching the movie at the world premiere and attending the global press event. We were ready to dive in and talk to Daniel and Letitia about their roles in the film. The pair stroll in the room to an astounding round of applause and cheers, and Letitia’s face immediately lights up, “Man, I love this room,” she erupts before walking towards the two chairs awaiting the pair at the head fo the table.
She sits down and immediately starts talking about how excited she is to be sitting down with us and small talk erupts about wardrobe from the movie. Daniel talked about a coat that Chadwick Boseman’s character T’Challa/Black Panther wears before Letitia chimes in talking the amazing job everyone did on the set.
While complimenting everyone who worked on the movie, she took a moment to share how she felt Ruth Carter and her team made the film extra special for her.
Letitia W: Like all the departments were amazing, but Ruth man, Ruth and her team were just amazing! I didn’t like dresses to begin with I hated them. I wasn’t really like super girly when I started Panther. And then she would like bring me into a fitting and like fit dresses on me and she’s like, ‘we’re gonna make sure they fit to your body,’ and then I’ll be like, ‘damn, I look good!’ Like everybody across the board looked dope.
Since we were already talking about the fashion in the film, we asked the star about the braids used for her character in the movie. Since they were more modern, we wanted to know where the idea came from in regards to using Micro Braids as a part of the costume.
Letitia W: Nikki Wright, she created pretty much all the styles. So, they all settled on braids, which I never had prior to that. So, they settled on braids, Ryan and Camille the head of the hair department settled on braids. And, and then Nikki would come in and be like, ‘what are you wearing?’ and she would see roughs of pictures from Ruth and then she would start designing on my head. And then we would go and show Ryan and he loved it.
The first scene we tried on this outfit that Ruth created with the cape and all of that stuff and the silver skirt. And then I put my braids into two separate buns just for fun, and then Ryan was filming in the throne room, They were filming a scene then and you have to go kind of like show and tell in between. So I went and he was just like, ‘oh man this outfit’s dope, da, da, da, da’ and he loved it. And then he’s like, ‘is that how your hair’s gonna be?’ And I’m just like, ‘no, no, no, no, no, we’re just playing around’ he’s like, ‘no, it feels like princess Lea.’ And then I went to Nikki, I was like, ‘I think he likes it,’ Nikki’s like, ‘cool, gonna refine it.’
So, all of those things are like literally just people coming with ideas and Nikki as well just literally sleeping on it and coming in the morning like, ‘I got something.’ Even like the hero look for the gauntlets, she created that.
There are quite a few action scenes in the movie. We asked the pair about what they did physically to prepare for the movie and what kinds of training did they have to manage those fight scenes.
Daniel K: We did a lot of sword training. [LAUGHS] We was in the black, we had to train with the Dora Malije like we had so much sword training. We learned from scratch. What I think was amazing, everyone had to have their own fighting style.
Everyone had their own fighting style that reflects their character. So, W’Kabi is more like a fierce, ruthless, kind of guy. That’s why when he goes, ‘oh, I want to go on a mission,’ he’s like, ‘no, you can’t go on a mission.’ [LAUGHS] We kind of learnt how to base of certain stars that were in the African community in Africa. And then kind of like trying to have a hybrid of all these stars and we just worked in all these fights that we were working with.
So, it was a long, long process of finding certain fights, and then we go on set and then we go, ‘okay what have you learned? What have you got? What pieces have you got?’ It was completely creative and in the moment and kind of like on the fly and we just did that.
Since we were interviewing the pair shortly after the premiere we asked if they had the opportunity to check out the #BlackPantherPremiere hashtag. We had all seen some amazing tweets and reactions from fans, and we thought it would be the perfect setting to talking with some of the stars about the fan reaction to the film thus far.
Letitia quickly informed us that Daniel is ghost on social media. In a room full of bloggers we gasped. Who’s not on social media we thought. She also said she’s trying to be more active, she has Instagram and Twitter because he doesn’t want anyone pretending to be her online. Daniel jokingly chimes in adding he’s had a year of people pretending to be him on social media platforms. We went into a deeper conversation about how different social media is for them in London.
Letitia W: Like we’re from London we don’t have that type of world back home where it’s like super social media, to see what’s going on. Meaning like, getting a reaction, like looking for the results of what people think, we kind of like do the work and hide.
He’s been my brother for years. Like, I’ve known this guy for a long time and he’s a champ. I would go to his theater show, he would come up, he’d be like, “Tish, it’s mad,’ and he would smack it. And he’d be like, ‘where have you been?’, ‘I’ve been ghost.’ And he comes back like five months later than he’s in Get Out and then you’re like, ‘okay, cool.’ Alright, where you? And he’s like, ‘oh, Tish it’s mad.’ And it’s like, ‘where you been?’, ‘Gonna be on Panther, I’ll see you there.’
So, us back home, we’re so kind of secretive we do the work and bounce. So, when stuff like that happens, it takes a long time to go on and see what people are talking about.
Letitia finished up with a story about the cast being at a bowling party to bond and celebrate and Daniel sitting on FaceTime with Drake. They both laughed as she recalled the exchange “He’s like Tish, Drake knows who I am. It’s mad bro, Yo Tish it’s Drake! It’s Mad!” The room erupts in laughter as she finishes the story and her thought.
Daniel Kaluuya is an Oscar-nominated actor for his role in the movie Get Out. He’s received all kinds of praise for his portrayal in the film but he was quick to tell us that he feels once he’s finished the work it’s our (the fans). He wants to connect with people and empower them, but he wants them to feel like the work is theirs to interpret the way they choose. He also added he chooses to stay off social media so he’s not drawn into anything. Stating it’s easy to get pulled in and start battling with someone back and forth when you’re online just reading the text.
Black Panther surprisingly has a lot of comedy, we asked was it all writing or was any of it just scripted. Especially sitting and watching this pair, it seemed like the set would be a lot of fun.
Letitia W: You know what I didn’t even expect it. I didn’t go in with the thing that I’m gonna be funny. The writing was so good and then also just going at home and really just studying the script. And then I would find myself coming up with stuff like, ‘she would say that,’ like, ‘she would say that and that’s mighty rude.’ And she took herself so seriously I guess that’s why it’s kind of funny ’cause I just went into it like..
I try to be honest.
Daniel chimed in adding he felt like Letitia’s performance was great because she was interested in telling the truth. He also added that he felt people identified with her character because she’s just being honest and it makes people laugh because of the familiarity.
There are so many great messages in this film. One that stuck out to me was actually an end scene credit that seems like it was written to all American’s living in our country right now. It helps support the message of not only unity but love and understanding. I hope that when people see the film they take those words and ponder them for long after the credits roll. We asked Daniel and Letitia to share a message they hope moviegoers would take away after seeing the movie.
Daniel K: I feel Killmonger’s, one of the best villains I’ve seen. ‘Cause it’s how he’s decided to deal with pain. How you deal with pain real, really informs how you move forward. And it informs who you are and what you do and the energies and the people that are around you. So, that kind of through feeling and as black people everyday is pain, you know.
A lot of our films and a lot of our content is dealing with trauma. A lot of our media has this trauma. What’s amazing about this it deals with this and it talks about these two roads, you don’t have to go down that road but also it’s not solely about it.
It’s about joy, it’s about brother and sister, it’s about family, it’s about it’s communities, about nation, it’s about pride, it’s about like. For me a scene that struck me is Sterling K. Brown and Mike B. Jordan… that’s my life.
All black experience is being touched upon within this film. And I just want people to feel seen.
I’ve already mentioned that Letitia Wright is my favorite in the film. Yes, I loved her even more than Chadwick in Black Panther. Princess Shuri is about to steal hearts all over the world. She’s super smart, witty, and very strong-willed. I’m excited to see girls that already have a love for STEM celebrate this character. We asked Letitia if she thought about how she’s influencing a new generation as a black princess on screen.
Letitia W: It’s crazy because this film is pretty much years of prayer and your words are powerful man because this is something I would pray for when I was a teenager just getting into acting. I just want to be a vessel to be of inspiration. Doesn’t have to necessarily mean that that character is not flawed or perfect or has to be a perfect character but just to inspire.
But when this opportunity came up, I understood the magnitude of Shuri in the comic books. I understood where her arc is and where her journey is and it’s huge. But, what I had to do was take a dose out of Kendrick’s books and just be humble. And say ‘okay cool, this is, don’t think like that. Don’t let that be what you’re going on, don’t let that overwhelm you.
I understood what was gonna be happening, I understood the magnitude of the film, I understood that I’m standing with Daniel, Lupita, Chad, Ryan, like Michael, I understand what was going on. I could see what was going on and I could see what would be the result, so what I tried to do was just play, tell the truth and that something I always try to do throughout my whole, my whole time acting so far.
I’m the vessel for it, I do it and thenif a kid can be like, ‘man I want to do science,’ I’m not trying to force it down your throat, it’s kind of like, I’m just gonna be the vessel and be real. And be like, ‘science is cool, Shuri is cool, she can you know, create stuff and not be looked down upon,’ and just play the truth of that, of what’s going on. And then, if it inspires people, then yes, so, yeah, I didn’t take the burden on of, ‘oh my god, I’m gonna be inspiring a lot of people.’ And, and I knew it was gonna happen.
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.
Black Panther opens in theaters on February 16th, 2018.