Earlier this year, Black Panther performed excellently at the box office, gained an army of fresh fans and made history for the genre and industry with a nearly all-black cast. T'Challa's crew also notably included four strong and intelligent black women at his side: Shuri, Okoye, Nakia and Ramonda. At a time when empowering female superheroes are just starting to spring up, actress Letitia Wright, who played Shuri both in Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War this year, is noticing the influence of her character on audiences. In her words:
I have young girls and women come up and say to me, 'Hey, this is a new kind of representation for us. We're not in a film where we're inferior, or we're below the men, or we have to be just the object of someone's affection. We're equal. We can hold our own.' Everybody holds their own space in this film.
In an interview with Deadline, Letitia Wright expressed the ongoing impact of Shuri in Black Panther. The 24-year-old actress said she has always dreamed of playing roles who could impact lives positively, and here she is playing the genius sister of the most successful solo superhero film yet, who is just as impressive (more so?) as T'Challa.
Being represented on screen is something you don't necessarily recognize until you see it right in front of you. For many women, witnessing Gal Gadot's strength as the leading hero in 2017's Wonder Woman was an emotional moviegoing experience we weren't expecting. It thankfully continued with Black Panther through characters such as Shuri. Letitia Wright's character is a technical genius who surpasses Tony Stark in her intellect, as the mind behind Black Panther's suit, weapons and gadgets.
The inclusion of a character such as Shuri who is autonomous, talented and vital to the events of the film is incredibly important to see. Letitia Wright also said how she knew it was something special in the early stages of the process, before she had even read the script. She knew women were going to be represented right and loved the story. She maintains that Black Panther was never about box office records or impressing people, even if that's part of what has defined it now. Wright continued:
I feel like there was such a need for it in our culture, there was such a need for it in our industry, that when we got it, we grasped it and we ran with it.
Following the dire events at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, Shuri could play a significant role in the second fight against Thanos for humanity. She and other characters like her have begun to pave the way for more female heroes of color who are relatable, unique and at the center of the action. Letitia Wright's Shuri will return in Avengers 4 and Black Panther 2, with director Ryan Coogler reportedly returning to helm.
Don't forget to look through our Marvel movies guide to find out what other MCU projects are in development.