After its wildly successful launch as the second-highest grossing four-day opening in movie history ($242 million), Marvel Studio’s Black Panther has been all the rave in secular and Christian circles alike.
“Black Panther is a radical film in that it looks at our country racially, culturally, politically, dares to find empathy in both sides, but ultimately insists you can’t ever truly be great if you’re not first good,” author Joshua Pease writes. “It’s a point Christians would do well to consider.”
But even more impressive than its rich plot and box office success is the real-life story behind actress Letitia Wright, who plays T’Challa’s little sister, Shuri. While Wright became a huge hit with the audience and a critical contributor to the film’s success, the role of Shuri is almost one she never got to play after abandoning acting to deepen her relationship with God.
On British talk show This Morning, Wright opened up about the personal journey that left her running from acting into the arms of God, before bouncing into the Hollywood spotlight back stronger than ever:
“I needed to take a break from acting, because I really idolized it. So I came off from it and I went on a journey to discover my relationship with God, and I became a Christian. It really just gave me so much love and light within myself. I felt secure, like I didn’t need validation from anyone else, or from getting a part. My happiness wasn’t dependent on that, it was dependent on my relationship with God.”
The breakout star came to Christ after attending a London actors’ Bible study during a time when she had reached the peak of her depression. Per her declining mental health, Wright knew her reliance on fame and her own achievements was not a sustainable effort. In fact, she became so committed to pursuing God at all costs that she turned down a role alongside Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning.
Interestingly enough, when she gave up everything and released all control to God, she was handed the biggest opportunity of her entire career.
The blessings Wright has received through obedience are reminiscent of Matthew 16:25: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”
Do you mind if I praise God?
Just want to give thanks to God for all of the blessings and all he has done for the @theblackpanther cast & crew! It belongs to you all now! Enjoy enjoy enjoy 💕 #WakandaForever pic.twitter.com/xLkjzvKBZ3
— Letitia Wright (@letitiawright) February 16, 2018
While the Black Panther star initially felt like she needed to leave the Hollywood scene for good, God slowly began to work on her heart throughout her 7-month sabbatical, showing her how He could use her to shine for His glory in the spotlight:
“There’s a reason there are so many Christians in the limelight. A lot of young people who are in the creative industry are finding an avenue toward God now. We’re all in the same path, we’re all in the same thing. But we all support each other, and love each other, and keep each other grounded, and keep each other positive.”
Wright now finds bigger purpose in her acting platform and aims to use it as a “ministry” rather than a vessel to achieve her own fame.
“Where I go, where He takes me, that’s where I need to spread the love of God,” she said in an earlier interview. “Because people’s souls are dying. My soul was dying, and He saved me. So I can’t keep this to myself … I fell in love with Jesus and I’m still in love. Amen.”
Wright elaborated on This Morning that her newfound relationship with Christ has kept her grounded in the face of the criticism that can become all-consuming in her industry. She also no longer finds the need to strive for perfection, as she knows her identity is rooted in Jesus.
“I’m centered in who I am and I’m really grateful,” said Wright. “I’m not perfect, especially as a Christian you’re not perfect you know, but you’re walking every day and trying to just stay connected. And it’s helped me a lot, so I’m really grateful.”
See more from Letitia Wright’s personal story along with Blank Panther co-star Daniel Kaluuya in the This Morning interview below: