Choosing a standout performer in Marvel’s Black Panther film is like picking a favourite child. But when it comes to Princess Shuri of Wakanda, played by the spirited Letitia Wright, you can’t deny the fact there’s something special there.
The 24-year-old actress is one of Marvel’s new young guns. She joins Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming) as part of a new generation of superheroes in Marvel’s ageing cinematic universe.
As Princess Shuri, she is depicted as smarter than Tony Stark and Peter Parker, with the zeal of Peter Quill and the royal finesse of her brother T’challa. It’s a lot to condense into a teenage character, and Letitia does it with flair. However, the life-changing role may never have occurred had she not become a Christian.
“I needed to take a break from acting, because I really idolised it. So I came off from it and I went on a journey to discover my relationship with God, and I became a Christian,” she explained to British talk show The Morning.
After attending a Bible study for London actors, she found that her life changed dramatically.
“I said, ‘Okay, Jesus, I’ll try you,’ and I haven’t looked back since. I don’t really consider myself religious. I view it more as a relationship and if anyone thinks that’s weird, then okay,” she told W Magazine.
Letitia’s inner confidence shines through in the character of Shuri, allowing her to stand shoulder to shoulder with the established cast. Director Ryan Coogler described her as “the love and the light” of the movie, something she told Good Morning America she had been praying about during filming.
“I felt really strongly in my spirit, this thing about love and light kept popping up, those two words. And then Ryan confirmed it.”
Growing up in Guyana, Letitia caught the acting bug when she moved to London at age seven. She picked up numerous roles in the UK, including an appearance in Doctor Who and recently Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One.
By the time she made it to the Black Panther set, she had a sense that God was doing something much bigger than she had imagined.
“I feel like [the role] was ordained,” she told The Morning. “I really, really feel like this is just a God thing.”
Letitia has been lauded as a breakout star due to her role in Black Panther, but this is just the beginning for the Marvel newbie. Speculation has it that she may take up the mantle of Black Panther in the future, or even become the new Iron Man when Robert Downey Jr farewells the franchise.
But beyond this, Letitia has even bigger dreams. Pushing back against the stereotypical roles for people of colour, she wants to produce films that showcase racial diversity and speaks openly about her own struggles with depression.
“I want to see these stories being made… Let’s venture out and do projects with people of different ethnicities. Not just black, but also Asian actors and Asian superhero films. Just an equality across the board,” she told Vanity Fair.
Look out world, there’s a new superhero—or is it princess?—in town. While we have yet to discover what her character will become in the Marvel universe, one thing is for sure—Letitia already knows who she is. And it’s all rooted in her faith in God.