Dorothy Steel, Who Launched Acting Career at 88-Years-Old and Made Feature Film Debut in “Black Panther,” Dies at 95

Dorothy Steel in a scene from the 2018 film “Black Panther.” On the set, she recalled, she was a grandmotherly presence to the film’s cast. (Credit…Marvel/Disney)

Dorothy Steel demonstrated that it’s never too late to follow a dream. Born in 1926, she was 88 years old when she landed her first acting role, launching a career that would soon lead to her feature film debut as an elder of the Merchant Tribe in 2018’s Black Panther.

Steel was reprising her character for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever when Marvel Studios reportedly flew her from the Atlanta-based production to be with family in her birthplace of Detroit. She died at her home Friday morning at age 95, her agent, Cindy Butler of iSubmit Talent confirmed to People magazine, noting that Steel had predicted the sequel would be her “last role.” A cause of death was not given.

“It was just amazing, it truly was,” Steel told Atlanta’s WSB-TV (Channel 2) in 2018 of landing a role in the record-breaking superhero blockbuster. “If anyone would have told me I would be an actor, I would’ve said you got to be out of your mind.”

As she told Steve Harvey that same year, her role in Black Panther almost didn’t happen, as she couldn’t imagine appearing in a “comic strip at [her] age.” However, at the urging of her grandson, Steel auditioned, telling Harvey (h/t People):

“He said, ‘Grandma, you always talk about stepping out onto nothing, letting your faith take you there. Now how come you don’t do it yourself’… He said, ‘Either you’re gonna step out there or you’re gonna shut up.’”

Studying Nelson Mandela’s speech patterns on her computer to “to find the right tone” (h/t People), Steel told WSB-TV the Black Panther casting team reached out an hour after she’d sent off her audition tape. As fans worldwide can attest, the film would prove to be pivotal. People reports Steel told Harvey it “makes me feel really good to be a part of something…Black,” adding, “Wakanda forever.”

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SOURCE: The Root, Maiysha Kai