SOPE ALUKO [BLACK PANTHER]
Like her character Shaman, actress Sope Aluko (Shaw-peh) also experienced an amazing journey that is pivotal to her role as an actress, a wife and a mother.
In this short Q&A, Sope enlightens us with her stories as she continuously proves how “Blessed and Highly favored” she is.
Sope will also star in the upcoming 2018 VENOM movie.
Tell us about your story. Who is Sope in a nutshell?
In a nutshell, I am a Nigerian-British-American Actress living between Miami, Florida and Los Angeles, CA. I am a devout Christian, I have been married to my husband for almost 21 years and a proud mum of two awesome teenage boys.
When and how did acting start for you?
I have always wanted to be an Actor from when I was 4 years old, and although I trained in the UK briefly, I was unable to pursue it as a full time profession as my parents felt it was best for me to pursue a career that had more security. Hence, I studied and achieved both an Honors degree in Manufacturing Engineering and a Masters degree in Marketing & Product Management at Universities in England, before following the path of a Corporate Brand Marketer for a number of years. However, during all that time, my passion for Acting never stopped, as while working in Corporate America, I continued to train and taking acting classes in my spare time. It wasn’t until approximate 9 years ago that I left my corporate job, and decided to pursue acting part-time at first and then full-time 3 years thereafter. So I have been a full-time Actor for about 6 years now.
Name one memorable audition/casting experience.
My most memorable experience would have to be when I was auditioning for my role in Black Panther. I auditioned for 3 different major roles and was invited for a callback for a very small role, which I excitedly traveled to attend. I could not pass up the opportunity to meet the Director, Ryan Coogler, Producer Nate Moore from Marvel, and Casting Directors Sarah Finn and Meagan Lewis! It was the best decision I made in my acting career. I felt the warmth and support of all of them because they all wanted me to succeed. A few weeks later, my agent called me and told me I had not booked the small role I auditioned for, but in fact a larger role that perhaps had been created for me. What a blessing!
Your beautiful name is pronounced as (Shaw-peh) how many times do you have to correct people about it?
First of all, thank you for saying my name is beautiful. You know, prior to booking my role in Black Panther, I had been called a more westernized version of my name, pronounced ‘show-pee’, which was not at all close to the real pronunciation of my real name for so many years. However, during my audition Ryan Coogler was insistent on pronouncing my name correctly and urged all the crew on set to pronounce it correctly too. This small gesture on his part has affected me profoundly, and coupled with how Black Panther has honored me as an African immigrant, has also empowered me to urge people to make the effort and call my name correctly. So I don’t mind correcting people any number of times to pronounce my name LOL. As my mother used to say when I was little, “Do not be ashamed of your name, if folks can say Tchaikovsky, then they can say your name!” She was and is right!
You’ve been in several amazing shows and have played various characters throughout your career. Is there any particular favorite character that you can relate to the most and why?
Again, I have to say that my role as the Shaman in Black Panther would have to be my favorite role out of all the roles I have played thus far. First of all, the Shaman is a Spiritual Leader and that sort of draws a parallel to my faith as a Christian. I believe Ryan wrote the role as a highly spiritually, dignified woman of strength, who had been under the tutelage of her Mentor/Teacher Zuri (played by Forest Whitaker) for some years. So even though she was devastated by his death (sorry, spoiler alert), she was still able to sum up the strength to resume her services to the new King. I love her strength and loyalty, and hope I exhibit those qualities in my life.
How was it to be a part of the cast of BLACK PANTHER?
It was truly a blessing to be a cast member of Black Panther and also part of the Marvel family as a whole. I will treasure the genuine personal experiences I had with each of my cast mates and production, and hope I am blessed with an opportunity to work with them again.
Can you give us a little bit more information about your character, Shaman?
I think I covered most of the traits of my character as Shaman in Q 5. I can only add that after seeing the film myself, I realized that my role was quite pivotal as the succeeding King’s Shaman who has to crown the new King. I pray they reprise my role in Black Panther 2!
What is your dream project / Are there any specific project that you would love to do in the future?
I have always dreamed of being in a James Bond film! Ever since I was young, I was a huge fan of Ian Fleming’s books and the intriguing world of espionage that he created with James Bond being in the center of it all. Wow! that’s been on my Vision Board ever since I wanted to be an Actor in my childhood. So now, I am officially putting it out there in the universe! Fingers crossed!
How do you balance your time?
Because I travel quite a bit for work, I guess I try my best to prioritize the important things in my life and work from there... The two most important things in my life would have to be my faith as a Christian and my family. I know it sounds idealistic, however I tend to find that when I focus on these 2 facets of my life, then everything else seems to fall into place. Ideally, I would love to work on incredible projects with incredible Directors, Producers and Actors, without sacrificing the incredible times and moments spent with my family and friends. Hope that doesn’t sound too cheesy?! LOL
If you’re going to have a book, what would your book title be?
“Blessed and Highly Favored”
If you had the chance to support any charity/organization/person, what/who would it be and why?
Unfortunately, I lost both my parents to debilitating diseases. My father died from Parkinson’s disease and my mother from Bladder Cancer. So those would be my immediate charities to support. I also have a passion for helping the youth in depressed communities/environments in the USA and Africa, in various areas such as education, eradicating hunger, anti-bullying, creative arts inspiration etc.