Florence Kasumba is on a roll with her acting career. The Ugandan actress making a living on stage in Germany has begun to break out on the big screen with rolls in Wonder Woman, Black Panther, and now The Lion King in consecutive years. Kasumba is no stranger to Disney’s animated masterpiece, having a firm recollection of watching it for the first time before she went on to join the stage play adaptation. Now, she is already looking ahead to a potential appearance in a Black Panther sequel with Marvel, gleefully looking back on the cultural impact the first film had.
When Black Panther hit theaters in February on 2018, fans flocked to theaters in droves. African culture was proudly on display like never before at the movies as fans of another ethnic background were represented on the big screen in blockbuster form. “It means a lot to me because I remember when I was filming the movie Black Panther, it was a long process because we were training first,” Kasumba explained to ComicBook.com, recalling her role as Ayo. “Then, we started filming. While we were filming, we were also training and it was a long period and it was the first time that I was working on a movie where the crew and the cast were mainly black and it shouldn’t be a big deal but there was so many things like, for example, hair or casual things that are sometimes different. We had a lot of African input, obviously, in the movie.”
Kasumba proudly keeps her hair short, something she notes that some who would see her before Black Panther found to be different. “Being in a movie where, for example, all the female warriors had to have short hair. You know, people were crying because hair is something special but it became something normal. We would walk around and people would be like, ‘Oh my gosh! You’re the Doras!'”
“For me, it’s just like the way how I look but obviously, it made an impression on other people how to understand all this, you know?”
As a result, Kasumba’s original culture was not only given exposure to a mainstream audience but also celebrated. “For me, it was important because I don’t say it was almost like feeling home, but, you know, like, for example, I have no hair because I like this style,” she points out. “I’m not sick, it’s a choice and I come from Uganda and sometimes people tell me, ‘Yeah, but, you look so interesting with your look,’ where I’m like, ‘This is not even a look. This is like, if you type in whatever African women or African boarding school, you might see people that look like me,’ and it’s just easy, it’s cheap, it’s nothing special.”
As Kasumba’s schedule fills up with more and more roles, Marvel Studios is expected to bring out a Black Panther sequel somewhere in Phase 4. Nothing has been announced just yet but by the end of San Diego Comic Con in the coming week, that picture will be much more clear for both audiences and the cast.
“Well, I can’t say anything because I don’t know anything which is good,” Kasumba said. “What I love about all these projects, they are so big and you can only start speaking about something when it’s really like ‘Okay, we’re going to tell you what you should know,’ and sometimes, I think, everyone, we all need to learn to have more patience, you know? We can of course, say, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to watch the next movie but why don’t you just sit back and understand what just happened and just digest it, you know?”
Kasumba’s outlook is similar to that of some of her Lion King character Shenzi’s enemies: Hakuna Matata. “The other thing will come if it comes and if not, then something else will come, but you will be fine depending on what attitude you have,” the actress said.
While Kasumba did not appear in Avengers: Endgame after serving as a loyal member of the Dora Milaje in Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther. Still, she enthusiastically admits she watched the film and enjoyed it. “I love everything that my Wakanda folks do because they are strong and fierce and I am very proud that I am allowed to play somebody who is from Wakanda,” Kasumba said. “So, I was happy.”
Kasumba’s role as Shenzi in The Lion King can be seen in theaters on July 18.
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