Florence Kasumba, 41, is a Ugandan actress based in Germany, most known for her role as Ayo in Marvel Comics Black Panther movie currently taking box offices around the world by storm.
Before her role as a fierce member of the all-women’s special forces Dora Milaje, Kasumba made a brief yet ground-shattering entrance in Captain America: Civil War with the powerful one-liner, “Move or you will be moved”. She talks about her experience on the set of Black Panther and life in Wakanda.
What was it like working on the set of Black Panther? Does the energy the public is giving reflect what you all felt on set?
You talk about what was going to happen when you get ready for the scene, then you actually walk on set and you have the feeling you’re at that place.
I would end up, after weeks, writing ‘Greetings from Wakanda’ because I spent a lot of time on set. I was happy that I was able to see it first. You have to watch the movie to understand what I’m talking about.
Tell us a little bit about the character and what this role in particular required of you to become Ayo.
We all had to be physically very, very strong because there’s one thing to look the part and get into the costumes, but we fought sometimes for the whole day; so, you had to be able to run around the whole day and to be mentally conditioned – to know that you’ll have to do this move a hundred times. But we were prepared.
What people don’t know is that they didn’t just choose random people, they chose athletes. I have a dance background, for example, and I also do martial arts. When I came in to work, it wasn’t like [a surprise].
I knew I’d have to move around. That’s what I was trained to do; to sing and dance and act at the same time. My challenge was that I was going to be in a movie where you’re not going to tell a story for three hours. You, worst case, have to be running around for five months every day – you were basically training all the time.
What was it like being brought in by and working with Ryan Coogler?
Personally, it was amazing working with him as an actress. You’d have to imagine he’s under so much pressure making this movie. But he is so calm. For example, when you do something wrong, normally people would be like ‘don’t do this’ or ‘try this’ or ‘change that’.
He would always come to you, and he’s very quiet. He would ask you a question where no one could hear it. ‘Why are you doing this’ or ‘What is your point of view on this’ or sometimes it would be like ‘Ah, OK. I understand.’
He’s very respectful and very calm. There were other times when while we were filming, we were all very cold. He would never walk around with a jacket.
We would ask why isn’t he cold, and then you find out he doesn’t wear his jacket because he knows we’re all freezing. So, that’s the kind of person he is.
This film is a great example of what representation looks like when portraying superheroes of colour. What does that mean to you?
I hope everybody can say they have the feeling that they’re being represented out there. In my case, I waited for Luke Cage and I waited for this movie because I felt like I could be part of something like that.
Most of the time, and I wouldn’t say my appearance is difficult, but a lot of the times, they say ‘If we cast her, is it going to be a problem?’
Now times are changing, and I want to see Asian superheroes. I want to see heroes who represent where they come from so people can say ‘That could be me.’ There was an understanding—an understanding of what it means to be from somewhere else.
We had to look the way we looked to be in this movie, and that is overwhelming when you go somewhere and you think ‘wow this is OK. My look is OK’, having no hair. [Her signature look is a clean shave.]
Yes, why no hair?
It is, by the way, a choice. It’s not like I don’t have hair, I just don’t like wearing long hair. But then all of the sudden, I’m in movies where they require you to shave your hair, and it’s difficult for some women.
What will we enjoy most about the movie?
There is no aspect [you will not enjoy]. You will laugh the whole way. I was never a fan or interested in these movies, but this story—this is for everyone. This is a movie for young people, for old people, for people who are interested in comics, for fans of the Marvel Universe.
And I can just say you will cry, laugh, you will have a lot of moments where you will say ‘Oh my gosh! they did not just do that.’ It’s such a major event going to these movies.
For new fans and comic lovers alike, what can you say about expectations and consistency to the source material?
Go into the movie with an open mind. Again, it’s a movie for everyone. A lot of things are different in this movie, and that’s why I’m saying you have to just go out and experience it for yourself.
We’re telling a story that hasn’t been told before. You will not be disappointed.
- Edited from OkayAfrica.com. Black Panther is still showing in Kampala cinemas.