There are times when I’m reminded about the joy of being young. The joy of living in the moment and embracing all that goes on in life. Letitia Wright embodies that. She plays Shuri, T’Challa’s brilliant younger sister in the upcoming latest installment of the MCU – Black Panther. She breezes into our room with a big voice (and I can certainly appreciate women with big voices given that I have a MASSIVE one) and a smile. Her buddy in real life and for this interview, Daniel Kaluuya, who plays W’Kabi, comes in with another megawatt smile and they both greet us with their lovely British accents and we all eagerly start the interview.
Q: Tell us about your costumes, they were so regal in this movie.
DK: That coat.
LW : That day, that was, that was the team, the team I talk, favorite like all the departments were amazing, but man, Ruth man, Ruth and her team were just–.
DK : amazing.
LW : Like, I didn’t like dresses to begin with like, not that I didn’t, I hated them. But, I just, I didn’t really, 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 their like, she’s like, ‘we’re gonna make your body look. And then you see the reveal. Then we saw Chad’s stuff and, wow!
Like everybody across the board looked dope.
This is the amazing Daniel Kaluuya.
*at this point, we burst into laughter because her excitement is contagious, and we KNOW exactly why she’s feeling the way that she does. The movie is amazing, and being able to talk about it, AND be a star in it has to have her bubbling over*
DK : Hi.
Q : Can we talk about your hair?
LW : My hair?
Q : I noticed that it was more up to date, you had micros in, do you know how that all kind of came about? Because I was expecting something else at first.
LW : Okay, where is she? Oh, man she’s gonna–. Where’s Nikki?
Someone on Letitia’s team answers: Back there.
LW : Nikki’s outside, so Nikki 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 and the head of the hair department settled on braids. And, then Nikki would come in and be like, ‘what are you wearing?’ and she would see like, like roughs of pictures from, from Ruth and then she would just go like this. *makes hair braiding motions with her hands*
And then she would start designing on my head. And then we would go and like show Ryan and then he would love it, so like the first ever scene–. Did you, has everybody here watched the movie? Yes? Okay.
Q : We loved it.
LW : Great, so the first scene, the first scene we tried on, 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, my, my braids into two separate buns just for fun, and then Ryan was filming in the throne room, where you see all the tribal elders and, and everybody who’s in charge of their departments and what kind of–. They were filming in the, a scene then and you have to go kind of like show and tell in between. So I went and Ryan was just like, ‘is that, are you like, oh man this outfits 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, it’s, no, we’re gonna plan something,’ he’s like, ‘no, it feels like princess Leia.’ 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. That’s like, she just, she did that. And I don’t know, like the team was just sick and then now it’s on the face of like dolls and stuff, so that’s the thing.
Q : What kind of things did you guys do to prepare for the movie ’cause it’s very physical for both of you.
DK : Well, yeah, we did a lot of sword training. We we were in the black, we had like, we had so much sword training.
LW : Yeah.
DK : So, we had to kind of learn, I think what was amazing, everyone had to have their own fighting style.
DK : So, everyone is , even like with the hairstyle, everyone hairstyle is different–.
DK : Then there’s the whole kind of different styles within the community. Everyone had their own fighting style that reflects their character. So, W’Kabi is more like a fierce, ruthless, bub. 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.’ We learned how to base off 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, we, we have a run of certain fights. Then we’d go on set and then go, ‘okay what have you learned? What have you got? What pieces have you got?’ And we just kind of, let’s just, it was completely creative and in the moment–.
and kind of like on the fly and we just did that. That’s what the film is. It’s amazing–.
Q : How has it been on social media after last night? And did you get any funny tweets?
LW : He’s, he’s, he’s, he’s ghost on social.
I’m trying to be, I’m trying, I’m semi-ghost. So, know what that means is that I’ve got and account that I secured, because I don’t want anyone to pretend to be me.
DK : I had a year of people pretending to be me.
LW : Yeah. See. This is why I did it. And then I put a few pictures up so people know it’s me but to be honest we haven’t, I’ve seen a few, like here and there. Like, you’d see, just spots of friends–.
Q : But you’re such a fan favorite!
LW : But, I haven’t, we don’t, we do, like we’re from London like. I feel like as an actor from London I find sometimes we, we don’t have that type of world back home where it’s like super like, social media, 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.
Q : That’s why you’re smiling right now.
LW : It’s like, ‘okay, okay, wow.’ So, us back home, we’re so kind of like, secretive or kind of like, do the work and bounce. So, when stuff like that happens, it takes time to like, I take a long time to go on and see what people are talking about. Like, for example, like let’s say like, like, gal, like you didn’t go online every day and be like, ‘let me go and immediately find it.’ My goodness Drake knows about who I am!
DK:We want to empower the people.
LW : Yeah.
DK : Do you know what I’m saying? And then kind of like, we want to make sure, and then so in our decision we’ve, we’ve, it’s, it’s considered in our decisions. And so, we just want people to have them.
LW : Yeah.
Q : And offline we want to thank you and congratulate you for your nominations. That’s awesome.
DK : Thank you so much.
Q : That means that you can’t hide, so what are you going to do?
DK : I know it’s harder to hide now.
DK : You know, maybe I’ll go out for a while or something. I’ll do Dave Chappelle.
Q : There’s a lot of deep parts but there’s also a lot of comedy. Was there a scene that you all had to keep reshooting because you just couldn’t control the laughter?
*editors note. Shuri has some HILARIOUS lines in this movie, and they’re delivered in such a serious way, that you know they weren’t necessarily meant for comic relief, but they naturally happen. You’ll love her!
LW : It was just like, it was down to the writing, the writing was so good and then also just going, 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, like–.
DK : I think what’s amazing about Letitia’s performance in this film is that she’s honest.
LW : Yeah, I try to be honest
DK : And then it’s, it’s about love, it’s about love for her brother. You know, so she’s trying to tell the truth.
LW : Yeah. Just trying to tell the truth.
DK : And everyone identifies with that, you know, and it’s like, kind of like that playfulness and this, it’s a, it’s a laughter from familiarity. Do you know what I mean because it’s like everyone knows.
LW : That’s sweet, bro.
DK : You know, so it’s kind of like the best kind of comedy for me ’cause it’s grounded, it’s just played as for relationship and it’s about love, you know.
Q : There are so many incredible messages that come out of the film. What is something that you want to make sure that is getting across to the audience and what did you learn from this movie?
DK : What I want to get across, I don’t know, like for me, Ifeel Killmonger’s one of the, one of the best villains I’ve seen. ‘Cause like I said in, in just now, it’s just ’cause it’s how he’s decided to deal with his emotions. You know, and, and, and that kind of like, what is there to do with pain, and 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 like and as black people there’s, you, everyday is pain, you know. And black people in the west, the slaves, trauma, a lot of our films and a lot of our content is dealing with trauma. A lot of our messages in this trauma. So, it’s that kind of like, and, but, and 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.
You know, and it’s about other, 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, I, a scene that struck me is, is one of the later father and son scenes, ’cause my family’s from Uganda and I was born in England.
You know, and it’s that thing where like I can’t, I can’t speak the language but I can understand it, but they kind of see you as an outsider. You know, because you know, because you just in this in between phase. And you’re not really British, you’re not really Ugandans. But it’s, and it’s that, in those truths. You just want to be seen, and feel identified with that’s what.
Q : I think so many people are just so excited about being represented in a film and so for us this is just, it’s such an amazing accomplishment. But, you are representing a black princess on film. And you are modernizing in a way that girls I think around the world, and boys too, are gonna be so excited about. Did you even think about approaching this is as like, ‘wow, I’m actually gonna be inspiring people and I’m gonna be a black princess on screen.’
LW : It’s crazy because my, this, this film is pretty much years of prayer and it was a powerful man because this is something I would pray when I was a teenager just getting into acting, like, whatever I do, I just want to be a vessel of inspiration. Doesn’t have to necessarily mean that character is not flawed or perfect or has to be a perfect character but just to inspire. But, this opportunity, when it came up, I understood the, the magnitude of Shuri in this, in the comic books. I understood where her arc is and where her journey is and it’s huge.
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. 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 can, with, within myself I always try to do throughout my whole, my whole time acting so far.
Not been a long time but, but just telling, just telling the truth and then knowing that as long as I do that and I, and I do it to the best of my ability and I, and I am a vessel for, for that, then hopefully by God’s grace like young people will be inspired. And also that’s down to the writing and down to, just a big collaborative thing with, with the writers and the, and the directors and, and the actors and, and just doing that and making it relatable. So, that, I, I’m the vessel for it, I do it and then if some, if 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. But it was kind of like, going on set to be like, I’m gonna tell the truth today, she’s a scientist, she’s really cool and if you grab something from this, grab it and go.
DK: I was gonna say, I was just gonna say, I remember one time you was on the set and then, and it was a big scene. And then Letitia walked by, she was in costume, and this little girl went, ‘ah.’ It was like amazing!
LW : Yeah. And no, no, no, this is another thing that, that I will always try to just bring it down to not think about it so much because Daniel would do this thing where he pulled me to the side and be like, ‘you’re, you’re a queen, you know!’
What a whirlwind of an interview! I love that they were so open with us, and SO willing to just talk, like we were meeting for coffee. Remember that Black Panther comes to theaters everywhere February 16th!