What Letitia Wright remembers most about her first trip to the Oscars, as part of the cast of 2019 Best Picture nominee Black Panther, was being late. "And then getting through security and Queen Latifah and Serena Williams looking me up and down like, 'You're late. What's going on?'" she recalls with a laugh. "That was like, 'Damn! Can't be late to the Oscars!'"
Black Panther won three Oscars that night, including Ruth E. Carter's for Best Costume Design. ("To see her win, that was a beautiful moment," Wright adds.) Meanwhile, the culture-defining superhero movie was a Marvel-sized big break for Wright, and following subsequent appearances in 2018's Avengers: Infinity War and 2019's Avengers: Endgame, she set out to flex her actorly muscles.
This year alone, Wright premiered the artsy biopic The Silent Twins at the Cannes Film Festival, then traveled to Tribeca to debut the social-realist drama Aisha, and recently dropped by both Comic-Con and D23 to tease Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. "I spent the last two years focusing on my craft, trying to find the right material that I can pour my heart into," she says.
That The Silent Twins (in which she portrays one of the real-life Gibbons twins, who spoke only to each other) and Wakanda Forever (in which she reprises her role as tech wunderkind Shuri) will be in theaters so close to one another wasn't planned, but it does typify the sort of range that Wright wants to showcase in her work. Why not simultaneously star in an arthouse indie and the biggest comic book movie of the year? Her hopes for what comes next are even bigger.
"I need to get on my Tilda Swinton swag," she grins. "I want to challenge myself in a way that is unexpected. Something really different. I don't want to be boxed into, 'Tish can just do this,' or 'Tish is just in superhero movies.' Like, nobody expects me to do Silent Twins and then Panther. That's why I love the art of acting — because I get to have my cake and eat it. But I want to switch it up. I want to see you in a couple of years and be like, 'Yo, Tish! I didn't expect that!'"
Below, Wright shared with A.frame five films that have inspired her career thus far.
Directed by: Peter Jackson
The Lovely Bones with Saoirse Ronan inspired me in a way that shifted my perception of what acting could be. I saw acting in a non-linear way for the first time. I loved the acting. Stanley Tucci scared the hell out of me. It boosted me to want that range. Like, I wanted to hit that type of excellence in my acting.
Directed by: Michel Gondry
Again, that's non-linear vibes. It's really, really dynamic in terms of its approach. Great, fantastic acting from Jimmy [Carrey] and Kate [Winslet]. And I just thought the cinematography was really dope. I could watch that back to back and study it, and try to understand. There's still bits about it that I haven't worked out yet. I need to go back to it.
Directed by: Doug Atchison
Akeelah and the Bee, because of Keke Palmer's portrayal of that young girl who was just ambitious and wanted to spell. It was a movie about a Black girl wanting to spell, y'all! There's nothing more to it. Her drive and her ambition inspired me to want to do acting in a way that was meaningful. Acting became like, "I don't have to just do stereotypical roles. I can do something that's meaningful."
She actually inspired Shuri, because when I got my first agent, the first thing I said to him was, "Do you know Akeelah and the Bee? That's the type of movies I want to make. I want to make impactful movies." Keke is amazing, and Angela Bassett too, who's now my mom [in Black Panther]. Full circle.
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
That movie's lit. That movie is so lit. Not only is the cinematography off the chain, not only is the acting off the chain, but how it dealt with the subject matter of drugs and medication and how that messes with you in a way. And especially with Ellen Burstyn, the way that they did that was so superb.
Directed by: Barry Jenkins
There's other movies from back in the day that inspire me, too. In the Heat of the Night with Sidney Poitier, Angela Bassett in What's Love Got to Do With It — so many beautiful movies. But I'll say Moonlight, because of what Barry Jenkins did. He did something that was so different. Again, I'm a fan of cinematography. Not only was that great, but the three sections of this young man's life and dissecting that, and the acting being amazing, and especially how they won the Oscar. It's just freaking awesome. I love that film, and I love Barry as an artist.