Award-winning actress Connie Chiume, who has been cast in the highly anticipated Black Panther, did not even know she was auditioning for Marvel’s new superhero movie.
Chiume, who is considered an icon for her work in the entertainment industry, recently announced that she was a part of the star-studded cast, which includes Oscar winners Lupita Nyong’o and Forest Whitaker, as well as Angela Basset, Michael B Jordan and Chadwick Boseman.
Speaking on how she landed her role, Chiume said she did not know what she was auditioning for. “Auditionswere held in Africa, the Caribbean and other parts of the world, but it was all very secretive.
"It was so secretive that I was not even told what role I was auditioning for, it was not even gender specific, I was just given lines to read and that was it,” she said.
A few weeks after auditioning, she received a call saying she had been cast in Black Panther. However the call was not met with excitement.
“I had no idea that a movie called Black Panther was being produced, so initially when they said Black Panther I was not very excited because the only black panther I knew was the Black Panther Party movement in the US and I did not want to be a part of anything that might distort the history of that struggle. I was happy but not excited,” said Chiume.
It was while on the set of her 2017 drama, Thula’s Vine that Chiume found out exactly what Black Panther the movie was and just how big landing a role on it was.
“It was just a normal day on set and somehow I started telling a colleague about a role I landed and as soon as I said what movie it was for everyone started screaming and dancing and I couldn’t understand why until my colleague went onto the internet and showed me. I tell you I went absolutely numb. I could not believe it. When I got home I had to have some tea but I was still in shock,” she said.
The gravity only set in after she signed her contract and received her visa to travel to the US where the movie was shot.
“I was cast in 2016 and in January I went to Atlanta where the movie was being shot for a week to shoot my scenes before returning home. I then went back in March for four weeks to shoot the rest of my scenes in a different part of the city,” she said.
On the character she plays, Chiume said she plays a mining elder: “My character has no name, she is known at the mining elder. Wakanda (the country in which Black Panther is set) is a self-sufficient country that is also very technologically advanced. “The elders are very much like government ministers and play important roles. My character interacted with most of the main cast members,” she said.
Although Chiume has worked on the set of international movies before, namely I Dreamed of Africa and In My Country, she said that nothing compared to working on the set of Black Panther.
“The international movies I have worked on were all co-productions between South Africa and America and I shot my scenes in SA. They were all great to be a part of, but not like this. I have never walked on set where there were more than 400 people working.
“It was huge, the absolute next level of production. Everyone was so warm and welcoming, I spent time with people like Angela and Lupita and conversed with Chadwick. We all worked very hard. It was an amazing experience, we even had a party when we were done filming.”
She also stars alongside two other South African performers, John Kani and his son Atandwa: “Oh it’s such an honour, really it is, being with two other South Africans on such a production and on a movie that the world is waiting for is an honour.”
The star said she was excited about the movie’s upcoming release: “I am very excited. After 40 years in the industry you feel like you have reached a ceiling and can’t go any further, but this role and movie has taken me through that ceiling and I am so happy.
“Yes, I have been here for a while, but there is still more for me, more for our country even, we have so much talent,” she said.
* Black Panther hits cinemas on February 16.