How Letitia Wright Leaped From 'Black Panther' Breakout Star to 'Black Mirror' Emmy Nom
The Guyanese-British star opens up about how she prepared for the role on the Netflix anthology series, her hopes for her 'Black Panther' character, Shuri, and the power of saying no.
Letitia Wright was taking a driving lesson (the 24-year-old is in the process of getting her driver’s license) when she noticed her phone had more missed calls and messages than usual. When her agent told her that she’d been nominated for a supporting actress Emmy in a limited series or movie for her role as Nish on Black Mirror’s “Black Museum” episode, Wright took a moment to process the information, resting her head on the steering wheel in shock.
The actress has had quite a year so far, starting with a starring role in the No. 1 movie of 2018, Black Panther, followed by her episode of Black Mirror in which she plays a young woman who visits a creepy museum with a secret intention. THR spoke with the Guyanese-British star about how she prepared for the role on the Netflix anthology series, her hopes for Black Panther’s Shuri and the power of saying no.
What drew you to the “Black Museum” episode of Black Mirror?
The story. I was meant to be in [an episode of] Black Mirror a season before, but it was clashing with a project and it couldn’t happen. So when this one came about I was so surprised, frankly, that they even called me back. It was two weeks before I would’ve finished Black Panther, and I was literally exhausted. I did the [audition] tape with Daniel Kaluuya. He’s like the O.G. of Black Mirror — he was in the first season. I was like, “Bro, you’ve got to help me.” And he was like, “Queen sis, I’m going to [help] you do it.” So we did it together and I sent it off and a few weeks later I got the role.
What Black Mirror episode were you supposed to be in?
I’m not going to say due to just being respectful to everybody — however, it was weird that in the “Black Museum” episode, some [references] from the one I was supposed to be in show up.
What did you do to prepare yourself for this role?
I watched Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th just to get into the world of what it was like, predominantly for men of color, to be placed in situations where they would not make it out of prison and how that affected their families and their environment. I [mainly watched that documentary] to get a feel for what the character was feeling for her dad. And then I just stayed with the script. I stayed with the performance, and I told the truth.
Were you a fan of Black Mirror before this?
From the very beginning, I’ve been a supporter of it. My favorite episode has to have been “Nosedive” [about a woman who desperately wants to be liked on social media]. It’s so funny and hilarious, I think because it’s so real. We do that in real life. We try to gain approval from other people, and that is detrimental.
Why was it important to you to play both Nish in the “Black Museum” episode and Shuri in Black Panther?
It allowed me to show range. It allowed me to be seen in a movie that’s so highly anticipated and highly supported, playing that fun, lighthearted character and then bend everybody’s head and go, “OK, she can play that, but that’s not all she can do. She can actually go there.” I thought it was just a brilliant way in which the timing of everything came out.
What do you think of Marvel launching a Shuri comic book spinoff?
I know that she had a predominant impact on the comic books before, but now that she has it again, I’m so excited. I’m looking forward to what the writer is going to do with Shuri because that gives me something to play with in the future. I get to pick up more things about her in this comic book that can help me in the future with Black Panther.
Have you talked with Marvel or Ryan Coogler about the Black Panther sequel?
I haven’t spoken to them. I think everybody is still resting and just catching our breath from what just happened [with the film’s success]. I know they’re going to do great things, and I hope to see Shuri in a well-rounded way and that she’s able to contribute positive things to the movie.
How have you managed to take care of yourself during this time?
Sometimes saying no is a good thing. Sometimes you don’t have to go everywhere, and you don’t need to be on every red carpet. I’ve said no to overworking myself. I’ve tried to really spend time with family and in my faith.
Was that a lesson you had to learn the hard way?
Yup. Through exhaustion.
This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.