A native of Nigeria, Sope Aluko spent 20 years working in corporate America before she made the decision to quit her job and act full time. Living in Miami, Sope booked her first role in “Army Wives,” and became a working actor and appeared in nearly every movie or show that was filmed in Miami.
Although her resume is extensive she recently added franchise movies that are sure to stand out, Marvel films “Black Panther” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Playing the role of ‘Shaman,’ Sope returns as the spiritual leader who offers guidance to the realm and delivers the pivotal lines during T’Challa’s ceremony. We had a chance to catch up with Sope and find out more about her role in the film, her acting career, and writing endeavors. Don’t worry there are no spoilers.
When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
I always wanted to be an actor. I knew from young that I wanted to perform. I loved the feeling of performing and that was all that was in my head. But life gave me a different course. I am one of four girls and my parents were in the mindset that we really need you to be in a career that is sustainable that will support you and at the time they just didn’t feel acting was it.
What led you back to acting?
It’s like full circle since I became an actor. I went to school and I studied to be an engineer and then I did my Masters and went into corporate America so I changed course. And then I lost both of my parents and that’s when I decided to pursue acting. Tomorrow is never promised and I wanted to see if I was any good at it after acting in theater years ago. They never got the opportunity to see that leap but I know they’re watching me from on high.
How did it feel leaving your stable, well-paying job in corporate America to pursue your acting career?
I didn’t get a chance to put in a two week notice. My father died suddenly and that completely crushed me. I didn’t think I’d ever survive it and I completely shut down. I remember a very good friend of mine who worked in corporate America said to me, you need to go and see your dad. I went to see him and two weeks later he passed. I was in a daze after he passed and I had been wanting to leave corporate America for so long. But I think what God does with me sometimes is he pushes me out. He literally pushed me out, it wasn’t going to be my decision. I had no safety net, I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I left my job and that was it.
What did you do after you left your job?
I used that time to think, get in touch with my soul, and spirituality. I was reading the Bible a lot I was leaning on Him. I honestly didn’t know what to do and then I slowly began thinking about acting again, my love for the craft. That’s how it happened. It was hard. God tests if you really want it and if you’re willing to sacrifice everything for it then you know it’s for you. I’m still being tested, it doesn’t stop.
How did you feel when you got the role of the Shaman for Black Panther?
I prayed about it and I put it on my vision board. I told God I really want to be part of something about my African heritage that is provided to the world in a very honorable and respectful way. I also want to make my kids and family proud of me. Years later Black Panther came through. I auditioned for five different roles and almost lost hope. I got a call that they wanted me to read for a no name one-liner. I remember my manager at the time telling me it wasn’t worth it.
I asked if I would be meeting the director and producer and my manger said yes but that I would have to fly myself out there and it wouldn’t be worth it. I said I was going. I went in there and did my job. I met Ryan [Coogler] and Nate [Moore] and I did my best. I walked out thankful that I had done it and didn’t hear anything for weeks later. I eventually heard that I got the role of the Shaman. Instead of working with the cast for one day as the no name [character], I ended up working for 6-8 weeks on the production. My sons are so proud of me.
How did you feel finding out that you would be in the second Black Panther too?
I can’t even say how grateful I felt. We were all still grieving the death of Chadwick [Boseman] and we all had a memorial service on Zoom. I was still in that space of loss and grief and everything and the call came and it was like “wow”. It was a wow that was bittersweet because you’re like Chadwick’s not there. I felt very grateful but I was also sad. That sadness led all the way to the first day on set and realizing everyone felt that heavy weight too. That’s the beauty of working on Black Panther we are all a family.
You speak four different languages but your lines were in a language that you didn’t speak, Xhosa. How did you prepare for that?
When I got the lines and was working with the language expert I prayed and I gave it to God. I said you have to help me do this because I can’t do it in my strength, I can only do it in your strength. I don’t know how I got through all the clicks. I was really hard on myself. Those four days I made sure I was doing it twelve hours a day so that it just came to me naturally. They were literally prayers lifting T’Challa to the heavens. I wish I knew how I did it because I would bottle it and sell it.
You delivered those lines in a very impactful and powerful scene, what was going through your mind?
When I had to deliver the lines for the funeral of T’Challa it became so real that I literally broke down. I was so caught up in learning the lines that in the moment seeing the coffin and everything. We were just working in this purpose of making sure we honored Chadwick’s legacy. It was just an unspoken thing that we had to make this great for Chadwick’s legacy.
My words were to the heavens and I was speaking to the ancestors. It’s amazing that my God gave me the role to send him [Chadwick] off. We all felt very close and held onto each other.
How would you describe your acting journey so far?
My journey to become an actor full time was shaky. It was hard for me, I knew I wanted to be an actor but it wasn’t coming. I had seen the vision and it was disrupting my life. I earned good money in corporate America but I was never happy until I decided to pursue acting. Even though I wasn’t booking anything I was excited. I was finally doing something that I absolutely loved. When you have that click, that moment when God tells you, “Yes this is where I want you to be, this is what you’re meant to do, and you are just a vessel”. I always tell people God blesses you to be a blessing to others it’s not for you to keep a gift. You have to make sure that you’re walking in your purpose.
I jumped and I didn’t know if my parachute was going to open at all. I would sleep in the airport when I was going for an audition and not have enough money to get back. I struggled because I had to do it. I couldn’t sleep. And when you’re totally enthralled and in it you just can’t live without and you’re just so grateful for it. That you get to do what you love to do.
During your journey, have you discovered anything new about yourself?
I wrote a TV pilot and I didn’t even know I was a writer. My sister gifted me the screenwriting software for Christmas and I just started writing. Hurt, pain, and grief were just pouring into my words and I wrote this TV pilot I can’t believe I did. I was able to shop it around to two major networks I didn’t do it in my power I don’t know where that came from. And recently I wrote, executive produced a short film. It’s amazing when you release control and allow something higher than your purpose to work in you.
Can you tell me more about your short film?
I always wanted to write a story about the love I had for my mother. Losing a mother is indescribable. You can never prepare yourself for it. I always said my other was my prayer warrior and I always knew I was covered because I had a praying mum. This story is a fictional narrative based on true facts from my Nigerian culture. The name of the film is Chidera and it’s in Igbo. There are three tribes in Nigeria, I’m from the Yoruba Tribe, there’s an Igbo tribe and a Hausa tribe. It came to be in another language. And it means “what God is destined”. It had to be a female led story and the crew had to be almost 100% female. I wrote it in May, shot the film in August and hoping to be finished at the end of the year and then send it to film festivals.
Who is someone that has inspires you?
One of the people that really inspired me was Michaela Cole. I was working with her on Black Panther and I had never seen her TV series, I May Destroy You. My sister told me I really needed to watch it. I did and I was blown away. She inspired me immensely by writing her own story. One of the things I got from her and a lot of the interviews she did was that when you delve into your pain it brings something out that is healing not just for yourself but for others. And that is how I look at myself and my career.