BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Letitia Wright still can’t believe she made the “Black Panther” poster.
The 24-year-old actress has an out-of-nowhere star-making turn in the Marvel superhero film as the whip-smart Shuri, teenage sister to T’Challa and top scientist in Wakanda. Vibrant, funny and cool, it’s the kind of performance that has already left audiences wondering who she is and where they’ve seen her before. Tessa Thompson has tweeted her praises, as has Diddy, Common and “Deadpool” actress Brianna Hildebrand.
“She’s the scene-stealer of the movie,” said Jamie Broadnax, who created the website Black Girl Nerds. “(Executive Producer) Nate Moore has said she is the smartest person in the Marvel universe. She can take folks like Tony Stark to task.”
But Wright is still genuinely surprised that her face on the promotional materials, prominently displayed alongside the likes of Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett and Michael B. Jordan.
“It’s crazy, I didn’t expect to be on the poster,” Wright said the day after the ‘Black Panther’ premiere in Los Angeles, looking up at herself as Shuri, armed and set for battle. “She’s just ready! Everybody is getting ready and she’s ready.”
Born in Guyana and raised in London, Wright has had a few roles on British TV shows, like “Humans” and “Doctor Who” and “Black Mirror,” but has really just begun to make a name for herself in U.S. films, with small roles in “The Commuter” and Steven Spielberg’s upcoming “Ready Player One.” She’ll also reprise the role of Shuri in “Avengers: Infinity War.”
She’s said she was inspired to pursue a life on screen after seeing Keke Palmer in “Akeelah and the Bee” and Saoirse Ronan in “Atonement” and “Hannah.” But a career in acting didn’t even seem like a possibility for Wright at first. Her mom, while supportive, thought of it as more of a hobby.
“I was born in Guyana, South America. An acting career is not really something that’s seen as making a living,” Wright said. “I don’t come from a creative background. I don’t know anyone in my family who is a musician or actor or singer. It’s a lot of teachers, lawyers. Professional stuff like that.”
Wright said it was her own drive and determination that made it happen for her, and her ambitions remain high. She wants to be the best and work with the best.
“(Saorise Ronan) been playing leading roles for a very long time. That’s something I would love to do — Play leading roles and really hold it on my own in those leading roles,” Wright said.
She also wrote down a list of directors who she wants to work with. She’s already checked two off in Spielberg and Ryan Coogler, though she hopes to perhaps work again with Spielberg in a bigger part. Also on her list? Ava DuVernay and Lynne Ramsay.
Starring in “Black Panther” has been a “dream come true.”
“I hope people take something positive away from it,” she said.
This story corrects the spelling of Keke Palmer’s name.
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr
For more “Black Panther” coverage: http://apne.ws/zpnjk4s