COAT AND SWEATER: PRADA. STYLING: ALASTAIR MCKIMM. HAIR: DUFFY/STREETERS. MAKEUP: MARK CARRASQUILLO/STREETERS. MANICURE: YUKIE MIYAKAWA USING DIOR BEAUTY/KATE RYAN. SET DESIGN: PIERS HANMER. PRODUCER: CAROLINE STRIDFELDT/LOLA PRODUCTION. PRODUCTION MANAGER: TERESA BERGEY. RETOUCHING: GLOSS STUDIO NEW YORK. DIGITAL TECHNICIAN: NICHOLAS ONG. SPECIAL THANKS: RED HOOK LABS.
HOMETOWN: Born in Guyana. Grew up in London.
UP NEXT: As the ass-kicking Princess Shuri in Marvel’s Black Panther, with Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong’o; in the Steven Spielberg-directed sci-fi thriller Ready Player One; and in The Commuter, with Liam Neeson.
FIRST TIME ACTING: My teacher had after-school acting classes and she invited me to come. I was like, “What is this dancing around and jumping thing?” Then we did a play for Black History Month. I booked the lead role of Rosa Parks. I did this American accent that I didn’t think I could do, but I did it, and I was like, “Okay, this is cool.” Professionally, I started at sixteen. I took a picture in my bathroom and started sending it to agents, putting all my primary school CV stuff together, pretending like it was an actual CV, but someone saw it and someone gave me a chance. Since then I’ve been trying to build a good body of work.
THEATER VS. FILM: I love theater—it’s where every actor should begin, the core of acting. But I feel that there’s something about film that’s captivating; it takes you to another place and you get to really be so connected with it. And because film connected so much with me, when I’m on camera I want to make someone else feel the same way.
CHOOSING ROLES: For me it starts with the story. Does it feel real? Is it truthful? It’s great when people are open-minded and not into putting everybody in a box. I think the more open-minded people we have—like casting directors and producers—the better things are going to be.
ENTERING THE MARVEL UNIVERSE: I wasn’t really into comics, but I started to get more into it as I was auditioning. And then I realized Shuri, my character, has such a major arc in the comic books. To see a female character in that position is amazing. So I was like, “Where have I been all these years?” To be able to play that character has been such a blessing.
ON SHURI: She’s princess of Wakanda, but also she designs all of the new technology there. She has an innovative spirit and an innovative mind, and she wants to take Wakanda to a new place. Also, she has a great fashion sense, better than mine. She’s so vibrant; a beautiful spirit, but also so focused on what she does. And that’s good for other people to see, especially for young people to see, because it’s like, “Look, there’s a young black girl who loves technology and she’s from Africa.” It’s something refreshing.
ON-SET BONDING DURING THE COMMUTER: I tried to teach Liam how to do an ollie on my skateboard, but he was like, “No.”
WORKING WITH SPIELBERG: My first time on set, before he got there, everybody started whispering: “The gov is coming.” I was like, “Who’s the gov?” They’re like: “It’s Spielberg!” He got there and introduced himself: “My name is Steven.” I was like, “This is weird.” But it was great.
BEST ADVICE: I met Naomie Harris last year, and she said to me, “If you carry yourself like a superstar, everybody will treat you that way. But if you keep yourself grounded and humble, then everybody will be chill.” It’s about what energy you give off.
OFF-SET BINGING: Netflix is my homepage.
IF NOT ACTING: I’d be doing something in psychology. I studied it in college. I’m very interested in the human mind, what’s going on in there.
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