AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH SOPE ALUKO WHO STARRED IN MARVEL STUDIO’S BLACK PANTHER (STILL MAKING WAVES ACROSS THE GLOBE); SHE TALKS ABOUT HER ROLE, LIFE AND HOW THE PRODUCTION OF THE MOVIE IS CHANGING THE NARRATIVE OF AFRICA. MEET ‘SHAMAN’ AS INTERVIEWED BY EM’S DAMILOLA SHOTE:
EM-PLEASE TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU?
SOPE ALUKO- I am married. My marriage will be 21years old in August and it’s blessed with 2 boys; the older is 15 years old and the younger will be 13 in March. I live in L.A and Miami because of work, been acting full time for about 9 years and prior to that , worked in corporate America for fifteen years as a corporate executive and into brand marketing.
EM-HOW DID YOU LAND A ROLE IN BLACK PANTHER?
SOPE- I auditioned like everyone else, for 3 major roles actually, but didn’t hear anything. I eventually got a call back with the producer/director for Marvel Studios. It was for a different role and my 4th audition, which was small, but I went on, because I wanted the opportunity to meet the director. I did not hear anything for weeks, I later heard from my agent who said I didn’t book that particular role, but they gave me a new one which she believed was created by the director and that was how I got the role of SHAMAN in Black Panther.
EM- SHAMAN, CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT HER?
SOPE- Shaman is the assistant to the King Shaman who is played by Forest Whitaker (Zuri), he died and I take over. I coronate the new king, Killmonger played by Michael B. Jordan. Shaman is a very intrical character, not only as the counselor and adviser to the king, but she also enables the king to go to the spiritual world. He (Zuri) did that for T’challa and I do that for Killmonger and crown him with the beads as well, when it was time for him to be king.
EM- DO YOU THINK MAVEL STUDIO’S PRODUCTION OF BLACK PANTHER IS REALLY CHANGING THE NARRATIVE OF AFRICA, FOR AFRICA IN THIS MODERN AGE?
SOPE- Absolutely, I think BLACK PANTHER has changed the narrative and there are a number of messages to pick from it. It sticks to the fact that we were never colonised by the westerners, this is the utopia. This is probably what we would have been; there would have been no slavery and as a result, not have African Americans in the U.S feeling like they have lost their identity. I think there are so many messages in there, but certainly it has changed the narrative in a positive sense.
EM- WHAT ARE THE AMAZING MOMENTS YOU HAD WHILE STARRING IN THE MOVIE?
SOPE- There were no egos and everybody had their sense of responsibility that we had to work on something beyond ourselves. We knew it was something great and we all treated it with much respect and honour. There were lots of moments that were real and genuine. There was laughter and a lot of testimonials speaking about faith and how we got to where we are, so many things that when I reflect on them, are wonderful memories I will keep for the rest of my life.
EM- KINDLY TELL US HOW YOU TRANSITIONED INTO YOUR ACTING CAREER FROM BEING IN THE CORPORATE WORLD
SOPE- I have always wanted to be an actress since I was young; my parents didn’t think it was a sustaining career and felt that I needed to have something more substantial, so I did an undergraduate degree in Engineering, Masters in Marketing and then worked in corporate America for many years. I continued to be trained and was still taking classes in between, because I had a passion for it.
When my father passed away and thereafter my mother was diagnosed with cancer and she also passed away, it became very real to me that I needed to re-access my life and how I want to spend the rest of it, doing something that I really enjoyed, which was my passion for acting. That was what gave me the drive to give up my corporate life and start from the scratch, because I thought if I did not focus on it entirely, I would never know if I am any good at it or would ever be a successful actress.
EM- AS A WOMAN, WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO PRESS FOR PROGRESS AS THE THEME FOR INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY?
SOPE- As a woman, there are a number of things which still occurs in terms of:
• Women not being on the same pay hierarchy as men,
• FGM (FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION) is another area which I hold dear to my heart. I am particular about that, especially in the Sub-Saharan countries. I actually did a movie on that called JOY; it is a short film where I played a woman who was a Nigerian immigrant who lived with that. There are so many areas I would love to use my voice hopefully, when I do get the platform to help push the female agenda forward.
EM- WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BEING AN AFRICAN WOMAN?
SOPE- I love my culture. I love my tradition. I love my language. I love my people. I love how vibrant we are. I love our food. I love our respect for our elders and I try to instil that in my children. I love the richness of our culture and the fact that we come from a mighty nation that is rich in resources and very similar to WAKANDA but mainly in Oil and other resources like Cocoa etc. I feel proud about that aspect of my heritage and I honoured it the best way I could in BLACK PANTHER.
Another important thing for me during the premier in L.A in January, was to wear a Nigerian designer, because for me, the talent in Nigerian designers far surpasses all other talents which I have seen and that makes me very proud. I was able to wear a dress from a Nigerian designer- Deola Sagoe and I wore it with pride….
EM- HOW HAS STARRING IN THE HIGHEST GROSSING FILM OF THE YEAR SO FAR AFFECTED YOUR LIFE SINCE ITS RELEASE?
SOPE- It has been very busy. It falls in a very busy period, as it’s in the middle of pilot seasons, where series/regulars are being casted. So I have been in the midst of not only press meetings, but a lot of auditions. Hopefully this role will help open doors for me in the future. I don’t know if I can give a full answer yet, but for now, it’s keeping me busy and I am very thankful and blessed.
Sope Aluko & Michael B. Jordan at Black Panther World Premiere
Sope Aluko & Lupita Nyong’o at Black Panther World Premiere
Sope Aluko & Forest Whitaker at Black Panther World Premiere
Exclusive BTS shots of Sope Aluko on Black Panther On purple behind Forest Whitaker (also in purple)
Director Black Panther, Ryan Coogler & Sope Aluko