Black Panther pandemonium is here and shows no signs of slowing. Strap yourself in, and ride the wave.
We went one on one with Florence Kasumba, who reps the ultra-powerful Dora Milaje Dora Milaje iin the film. The classically trained martial artist and dancer is just one of the insanely talented women who make up T’Challa’s badass army. We spoke with the multi-talent about the Black Panther phenomenon, working with Ryan Coogler, and how we should show up and show out on opening day.
Check out our exclusive Q&A below.
CASSIUS: Needless to say, everyone is so excited about Black Panther, and you were in my favorite movie last year, Wonder Woman. That movie definitely inspires me to be my most powerful self. What does it actually feel like when you transform into these powerful warriors? Do they inspire you in your everyday life when you’re out of costume?
Florence Kasumba: [Laughs]. It just feels amazing, walking into the makeup trailer in the morning, and it usually takes quite a long time until we look the way how we look. Then you get into costume. Once you wear these two things, I don’t know, your posture, everything changes because you have to carry yourself in a different way. They’re very very tight, but they definitely make you feel very very powerful. Although, what I notice, we would walk in or I would walk in without costume in the morning, without makeup, and people would talk to you and make fun and joke, and the minute you get into your costume people get very intimidated. But I’m still the same person. And when you have like several women looking like me, it gets so intimidating! So a lot of the time people would say, oh, we don’t want to mess with the Doras.
C.: It’s awesome! As someone watching the clips on the other side, I even walk taller and I’m not even dressed like a Dora and I couldn’t fight a day in my life! [Laughs].
F.K.: But I did have to also add that we all have a martial arts background, and I think when you train anyway, on a high level, then you have a certain way how you walk. And I’m not aware of that, but people that train usually train say, ok, you are all martial artists or a dancer. In my case, that’s both correct.
C.: Black Panther is so major on Black Twitter. Tickets are selling out everywhere. How do you feel when you turn on Twitter, or you see the news and there’s just so much excitement on something you’ve worked on for so long? What does that even feel like?
F.K.: It just makes me very very happy because we worked so hard on this project. With us, we physically had to train in order to look the way we look, the way how people will see us. We had to be able to work as a group. These people know each other and they trust each other and all these things are so important to come across so that people believe the story we tell. But I have to say, I live in Germany, so everything takes a little longer there. And because of the time difference sometimes I have to wake up in the middle of the night and like, oh my God, the new trailer’s out. And we have to get tickets! And people say, oh we had tickets Monday! And we have to wait a little [laughs]. But it’s amazing.
C.: Yes! We’re so so so excited. And speaking about what we’re going to wear. I know it takes hours, but what could a regular person wear to rock the Dora?
F.K.: Put on some tight pants [laughs], some gear like a harness or something. I mean, it doesn’t matter. We are normal women. You’ve probably seen pictures online where there’s like the three women: Danai, Lupita, and I, and we’re just wearing beautiful dresses. There are these moments, too. It doesn’t mean that they are always wearing their uniform, because people that work in the army, they don’t always just wear their uniform. I think at the end of the day, this is the kind of premiere that if you want to get ready for the movie, you can be everything. You can be very extravagant, you can be very sportive. You could think, like oh my gosh, I want to go out in an African outfit! I mean, this is the way that you can show up the way you want to show up. That’s ok [laughs].
C.: We’re big fans of Ryan Coogler. He’s around my age. I interviewed him for Creed, and I’m just really seeing how far he’s taken it. He means a lot to us, and Black men in particular. What was it like working with such a young visionary on set?
F.K.: It was amazing because he’s so calm. He’s a very respectful director. He doesn’t just go and do his thing, like ok, this is how I want it. You always go in and you have a chance to sell your own thing. This was something that I really appreciate. That someone actually asks, how do you feel about this? How do you feel it? Would you do this? He’s very very young but he’s so experienced.
Black Panther opens February 15 nationwide, and tickets are on sale now.