The movie has historical importance because it is the first Marvel film to feature a black protagonist, a black director and a predominately black cast. Already, it has set pre-sales records as Marvel's fastest-selling movie in the first 24 hours, and is on track to open to $100 - $120 Million at U.S. Box Office. This would make it the biggest domestic debut for a black filmmaker in movie history.
To most Africans, "Black Panther" isn't just another superhero movie, it is a symbolic movement. Aluko feels honoured and blessed to be a part of the project which she considers politically, socially and culturally important.
In this interview with Pulse, the actress talks about landing the role, her experience on being a part of such a huge project, and its impact on her career.
How she landed a role in "Black Panther."
I actually auditioned for four roles - individual roles and different roles, and I didn't get any of them for various reasons. I was too young or maybe too old, I don't know.
And then I got a call to audition for a smaller role, and I went to the director session with the director, LA casting, Local casting as well as the producers for Marvel.
I auditioned for the role and didn't hear anything for a few weeks. And all of a sudden, I got a call from my agent and they said: 'Oh, you didn't book that role, but they have created a role for you and it's this, and it's a bigger role.'
I was very thankful and blessed because I know that was purely God.
Sope Aluko's role in "Black Panther"
I play the role of Shaman and my teacher is Zuri, which is played Forest Whitaker. He is also a spiritual leader like I am and counsels the king, T'Challa.
Unfortunately, that's all I can say because I have signed an Non-disclosure Agreement (NDA) with Marvel, and I am under strict orders not to divulge any more than that.
On keeping details of her character a secret, especially, from family and close friends
It was very difficult first of all, keeping the fact that I had booked a role in a Marvel film from my family because as I said, when you audition, you're meant to sign an NDA and it states clearly that you can't tell anyone.
So my family didn't even know until I was ready to start filming. And that's when I asked my agent if I was able to share that with my family, and my husband and kids were very excited at that point.
But I didn't tell any friends or anybody else outside my immediate family.
On being a Marvel fan and carrying out her research after landing the role
When I landed the role and I was able to finally tell my family, it was very little short time. Because obviously my kids are huge Marvel fans and have read all the comics, they were the ones that were kind of informing me more than anything.
But I was a Marvel fan prior to that. Our family is very much Marvel-centric as opposed to DC, so I had picked up along the way and I had done some research. But having booked the role, I obviously tried to read more about Black Panther and the associated characters with it.
So, yes, I did some research, both for my family and personally.
On changes - physical, emotional or mental - she had to undergo to play Shaman
I had to make sure I was fit because I had one of my scenes that was going to involve some physical activity - I can't say [which scene] exactly so you have to see the film.
But that was pretty much all I did from a physicality point of view. And then for my role, I had to speak in a different accent.
I made sure I did my research about the accent. Although we had a dialect coach, I wanted to make sure I was prepared prior to coming on set.
On working on such a huge project with the likes of Ryan Coogler, Chadwick Boseman, Angela Bassett, and Michael B Jordan
I just felt that it's such an important project in terms of the messaging and the timing of it now; politically, socially and in general pop culture.
That to me was just the best thing; being able to work in a project that I would be extremely proud of. For my family, for my home country, Nigeria, and just in general for every black girl or boy around the world to see Africa depicted in such a positive and inspirational light, and depicted in a way that It has never been done in Hollywood before.
So I feel very honoured and blessed to be part of this project.
On the impact of "Black Panther" on her life and career
The film hasn't even come out yet and I'm just grateful for all the press that I am receiving. For being able to do this interview, for instance.
It's just a great opportunity for me and hopefully, I will see some benefits in my career because I am hoping that this is my breakthrough.
On the significance of the anticipated commercial and critical success of the movie
I think the most important thing for this film is that it is a 90% black cast and we have already sold out in pre-sales tickets.
We have blown everything away in terms of all records for Marvel sales. It's so critical for that to happen right now because we need to set the standard and benchmark for all future films.
Not only black films that are cast with black characters and actors, but also films that depict the African nation and culture. That to me is huge that such a film would create this incredible buzz and that would translate to sales.
I'm hoping that this would tell Hollywood that you can take chances on an all-black cast movie, and even specifically, on a movie that involves African characters.
On starring in a Nollywood film
I'm only familiar with the Nollywood industry from seeing Nollywood films, so I haven't had an opportunity to be in one.
In all my interviews, I have expressed my interest in being in a Nollywood film. Hopefully, that would happen in the future. Fingers crossed.
What next for Sope Aluko?
I also signed on to do another Marvel film, so keep an eye on the announcement coming soon.
I have a film coming out this year with Taraji P Henson and Sam Rockwell called "The Best of Enemies." I'm also coming out as a guest star on the new show on Starz network which is called "Counterpart," with J. K Simmons as the lead actor.
Hopefully, there is more to come. I will keep you posted.
Directed by "Black Panther" debuts in Nigerian cinemas on February 16, 2018.