Dorothy Steel: Star Actress from the Movie Black Panther
Dorothy Steel: That Black Girl Magic
By Entertainment Editor Cedric Nettles
Black Panther Star Dorothy Steel weighs in on her incredible journey to cinematic history, and why women rule the world.
Flint, Michigan native Dorothy Steel sat down with us to tell us about her life and career that led to being apart of the earth shattering cinematic juggernaut Black Panther. She landed this role in her 90s, and has been inspiring us dreamers since. If you ever have a vision of your grandmother that you know that is going to spoil you with love, kindness, and wisdom that you need to go swing through and check on, look no further than Ms. Steel. She sat down with Exposure Magazine.
Exposure Magazine: Thank you for allowing us to hear your story.What was it like starting your acting career at 88?
Dorothy Steel: “You are so welcomed…It was just fun. I enjoy doing things. I took lessons at $75 a month years back after being offered a role to play a sassy teenager in a play. It was so much fun. I said if I ever got a chance to take acting lessons I would. I was offered those lessons at half price and that is how I began.
Exposure Magazine: How Did Black Panther come up?
My agent sent me a thing to do a audition for Black Panther. I told everyone I felt like it was a comic strip.My grandson told me to try out for it.I PRACTICED FOR DAYS AND DAYS AND DAYS DOING THE MANDELA ACCENT.I turned my demo in to my agent and she submitted it.Within an hour or two they called, and they said ‘We want that old lady’ and that is how it got started. I used to tell my grandson that you should always go out and step out on faith and try different things. I told him I did want to do it. He reminded me those things I told him that you either man up or shut up. My grandson encouraged me to do it. My son is a photographer and made me rehearse over and over again.
Exposure Magazine:What was it like working with Chadwick and the rest of that amazing cast?
Dorothy Steel: Chadwick was marvelous, if I was on the set and he was on the set he would find Miss Dorothy give her big ole hug and kiss.Chadwick is a fine actor and very gracious.The director, oh man he was just out of sight. Everyone treated me like I was the old grandmother.Everyone just showered me with love and attention.They really spoiled me. In down time we sat around and laughed and talked with the other ‘tribal leaders.’ Forest Whitaker would always greet me warmly. Our chairs were next to one another for our make-up. Angela Bassett after a while decided that I must be a nice ole lady because all the attention I got from the kids on set. It was fun. We had a little thing going during the river scenes we had those huge costumes and robes, so all of the ladies would place their food they snacked on under my robe when it was time to shoot.
Exposure Magazine:You grew up in different eras in black history, can you talk about what you witness?
Dorothy Steel: Oh wow, yes I have. I did a lot of sit-ins and stuff because I was determined that my sons would have a decent education. We laid our lives on the line for the cause.After seeing the opportunities they have now, it warms my heart, it made all we did worth while. As I tell young people to get an education, that is your way out.
Exposure Magazine:You mentioned that Black Panther a movement within itself? Could you discuss that?
Dorothy Steel: It is in a way because it showed you what women can do, we can be leaders, we can take over governments, and we are able to fight wars. We are able to do kinds of things. I think Black Panther shows what women can really can do, we are able to take charge.It was a movie and movement we needed to take to heart to show black women that we have the ability to take over and rule.
Exposure Magazine:What we loved is how black women were portrayed in the movie in Africa. Women were shown as warriors and mothers. What are your thoughts on that dimension of the film that had black women depicted as mothers of civilization and kings?
Dorothy Steel: It is the woman that rules the throne, because we bring the children up and instill in them what we want them to do. It is up to the woman to change the world by what we place inside of our children. When we are feeding you your breakfast and telling you how great are and when I am putting you to bed and telling you what you are capable of doing, I am are instilling all of the things in you I want to see in you.When you become a man or a woman I have helped to create a brand new society, and that is what we have to do as women.I love men, but men have to understand that it is women that are the creators.We bring the children here, and we bring them up. We are not just ‘nobodys’anymore, we are very important in the business world, and even more so in the home. I believe we can do both. You can be a good mother, and a marvelous scientist at the same time.Woman are strong.
Exposure Magazine:What do you think about women
creating good future fathers?
Dorothy Steel: I think if I brought my son up properly he would know how to be a good father.He would know exactly what would make his children feel good inside.If I made my son feel good as a child, he would know how to reciprocate that to his children. A man is very strong, but he is also very compassionate. I think if fathers could recognize the fact that it his influence ,not just in strength , but mindset that counts. They are nurtures, men do think differently but the child needs me, and they need you as men.They can mentor, I like men, they are very strong.
Exposure Magazine: What are your concerns for the development of the new generations of future leaders?
Dorothy Steel: I am an old lady, and I love people, I have seen a lot in 92 years, I remember when there were only bi planes, one wing on it and a prop motor…I remember that.
I remember the telephones where you had to ring for the operator for, now we got these phones that we have no idea how they work and the are called cell phones…(Dorothy laughs.)
We are way ahead on technology but socially we are in the Stone Age. Seems like if we didn’t have so much technology, we would be more loving to one another. And that bothers me. We see our kids with their little thumbs working in their cell phones.The communications skills are going down the drain.
We are the only thing that has a language, animals don’t have a language.Animals don’t have words, yet we don’t want to use them (words). We used to go to the library, now you have Google. You don’t have to research anything. Everything is getting too easy. And that bothers me, because everything is so easy and if you are not flexing your muscles you are going to get so soft that you won’t be able to withstand it when we have our time…We grow in cycles you know. How are you going to be able to stand up and tell me anything when you don’t even know how to go to the library.People don’t value books like I did growing up.
Some of these kids don’t even know their time tables and I think it is ridiculous. That’s why as a parent and as an old lady I don’t mind teaching children their time tables, or teaching them how to write in cursive, or teaching them what a vowel is. We need to get back at helping one another.
Exposure Magazine: What advice do you want to give to those who feel it is too late to pursue their dreams?
Dorothy Steel: A lot of people don’t want to get older, but I found getting older was a benefit to me.As I grew older, I recognized that I have acquired all of these marvelous skills.And now that I am older I can apply them and I can do anything I want to do and so can you. You can put those skills to use in your latter years because you don’t have to worry about raising kids or anything, you can just be yourself. That is why at 88 years old I could act.I didn’t have the responsibilities anymore, I could just be free to do what I wanted to do.My life just changed after I started acting.Being old is great. You can do so many more things now than you could when you were younger because you got better skills and your mind does not get old.
I find that especially in women like at 55 -60 years old and you start losing everything you thought you had. You have to realize all that outside stuff is nothing.It’s what is inside that counts. Then you can go inside and get all this good stuff out of you…The humor…The love.. And the understanding…And the compassion…All that stuff is in you and that makes you a beautiful person.
You have seen just about everything…You’ve seen life…You’ve seen death…You’ve seen riches…You’ve seen poverty..You’ve had everything that there it is in life to have.Now you can be anything you want to be. Nobody can stop me from doing anything. What you are going tell me no? You can’t tell me no…I have already paid my dues..And that is what makes being old great.
Exposure Magazine: Thank you so much for sitting down with us to share your journey and wisdom. Best wishes for everything.
Dorothy Steel: Thank you so much for having me.Dorothy Steel: I don’t know how much older I’m going to get, but however much older I get I know I am not going to change, except to do better things and bigger things. Click To Tweet
Dorothy Steel: I don’t know how much older I’m going to get, but however much older I get I know I am not going to change, except to do better things and bigger things.
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