That, in a word, is what it means to actor Aba Arthur to be a new part of the “Black Panther” universe.
“For me, that starts, of course, with being an African,” Arthur said last Saturday afternoon at a special screening of “Wakanda Forever” held in her honor at the Regal UA Denver Pavilions cinema.
“This film will be so important because of its massive and cultural impact — not just in the United States but globally,” said Arthur, a University of Colorado Boulder grad who plays a Naval engineer in the “Black Panther” sequel. In its first 10 days ending Sunday, the Marvel film made more than $546 million in worldwide box office. The story focuses on the women who fight to protect their homeland as they mourn the death of their king, which allows the film to also honor the legacy of the late actor Chadwick Boseman.
“To be part of this film is a dream. It’s an honor. I feel so, so, so lucky to be chosen to be part of the cast,” said Arthur. She’s one of 127 credited actors in Ryan Coogler’s blockbuster, but she’s only one of a few dozen who have their own line — and the Pavilions crowd burst into applause when Arthur had hers.
Arthur’s name appears in the credits alongside stars like Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Martin Freeman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Lupita Nyong’o — who made a particularly lasting impression on Arthur’s heart.
“Most of the people that were on set were part of the first film, so I didn’t really know what was going on a lot of the time,” she said with a laugh. “When it came time to do the actual ‘Wakanda Forever’ (salute), I didn’t know how to do it. But Lupita Nyong’o pulled me aside and taught me how.”
Arthur described her time in Boulder, where she earned degrees in acting and political science and co-created a dance troupe called BAM! (Bust A Move) as “an incredible four years. I learned so much.” She specifically called out Cecilia J. Pang, who has been an Associate Professor in the CU Department of Theatre and Dance since 2003.
“Cecilia was the first person who really pushed me outside of my comfort zone,” Arthur said. “She helped me to discover my talents, and she really stretched me.”
Arthur, who now lives in Atlanta, played Miss Gold in Jennifer Hudson’s 2021 Aretha Franklin biopic “Respect.” Next, she will appear as Abena in Oprah Winfrey’s upcoming musical adaption of “The Color Purple,” and in Netflix’s upcoming drama “Bad Monkey,” starring Vince Vaughn.
“Oh my gosh, my life is very exciting,” Arthur said. “Thankfully I have booked a couple of things, so next year will be a busy year.”
John Moore is the Denver Gazette’s senior arts journalist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.