A young British actress’ unique journey to JesusWritten by Subby Szterszky
Christian actors in Hollywood are a distinct minority by any standard. Rarer still are those with a coherent testimony that goes beyond simply claiming to believe in Jesus. So when one comes along who publicly shares her struggles, her conversion, her identity in Christ and its impact on her career, the Christian community does well to take note.
Letitia Wright is a young Guyanese-British actress who has become a breakout star thanks to her role in the enormously successful Black Panther movie. Her charming portrayal of King T’Challa’s tech-savvy little sister, Princess Shuri, was one of the film’s highlights, winning her critical praise as well as heaps of new fans.
Taking advantage of her newfound celebrity, Wright has not been shy to discuss her faith journey at length, in interviews and on social media. And she has done so in a confident, joyful and winsome way that has gotten a remarkably positive public reception.
Only a few years before she landed the role of a lifetime, Wright had decided to walk away from her acting career altogether. She explained her decision on the UK talk show, This Morning, while doing promotion for Black Panther:
I needed to take a break from acting, because I really idolized it. So I came off from it and I went on a journey to discover my relationship with God, and I became a Christian. It really just gave me so much love and light within myself. I felt secure, like I didn’t need validation from anyone else, or getting a part. My happiness wasn’t dependent on that, it was dependent on my relationship with God.
In various interviews, the actress has been forthright about her struggles leading up to her conversion. During her late teens and early twenties, she went through an extended period of severe depression that left her cooped up in her mother’s home. Some Christian friends urged her to give God a try and persuaded her to attend a London actors’ Bible study. She admits she thought it was all nonsense at first, but then the Holy Spirit changed her heart and convinced her otherwise.
At the same time, she began to sense God speaking to her about her acting career. “I remember God was like, to me, ‘Give up the job’,” she explained in an interview with Vanity Fair. “‘I can give you more than that; I just need you right now. Give up the job.’” And although she had just landed a role in a major film starring Nicole Kidman, she obeyed and gave up the job. “I’m seeking you first,” she recalled praying to God. “And I love you, and I want to know you, and I never want to put anything above you.”
Her British and American agents were perplexed by her decision, but as she told one of them in Los Angeles, “I need to spend time with God because, you know, this is where I need to put my heart first.”
It was only after she had sought and found her identity in Jesus that she began to sense God calling her back to acting and telling her, “this is your ministry.” And she jumped back into her work with renewed energy, but this time driven by a passion to share her faith on set and with fans, and to honour God with her creativity. When asked how she prepares for filming a scene, she simply says, “I pray.”
Black Panther director Ryan Coogler spoke of Wright as “the love and light” of his film, and the actress sees God’s hand in that description. “I was praying before I came out to L.A. to screen test and I felt really strongly in my spirit, like, this thing about love and light kept popping up,” she revealed in an interview on Good Morning America. “And then Ryan kind of confirmed it.”
Many fans of the movie would agree with that assessment. And while it’s possible to chalk it all up to her talents as an actress, the obvious joy she brought to her role makes that much more sense in light of her Christian faith.
Wright also peppers her social media accounts with expressions of her delight in God. On the day that Black Panther was released, she posted the following on Twitter:
Do you mind if I
Just want to give thanks to God for all of the blessings and all he has done for the @theblackpanther cast & crew! It belongs to you all now! Enjoy enjoy enjoy #WakandaForever
And in an earlier interview she gave in the UK, Wright summed up her faith and sense of mission, in her life and in her career:
Where I go, where He takes me, that’s where I need to spread the love of God . . . Because people’s souls are dying. My soul was dying, and He saved me. So I can’t keep this to myself . . . I fell in love with Jesus and I’m still in love. Amen.
It’s not uncommon for Christian celebrities to declare their faith in Jesus, but without a clear sense of how that faith impacts and connects with their lives. What is uncommon – and refreshing – is to hear about a high-profile faith like Letitia Wright’s.
The young actress is as honest about her struggles in coming to faith as she is eager to share her love of Jesus. She holds her career loosely, refusing to let it become an idol, seeing it rather as an avenue for serving God. Instead of seeking validation in her acting success, she finds it in her relationship with Christ. She considers it her mission to be a vehicle of God’s love and joy, through her creative work as well as through her testimony. And she shares that testimony in a positive, winsome manner that has gained a hearing among those who might otherwise be disinclined to listen.
For all these reasons, Wright’s faith would serve well as an encouraging model, not only to her fellow believers in the film industry, but also to a great many of her less famous brothers and sisters in Christ.
Sources and further reading
Philip Kosloski, “Black Panther star boldly proclaims ‘I fell in love with Jesus’,” Aleteia, February 23, 2018.
Cosima Marriner, “Black Panther star Letitia Wright talks about acting, depression and fame,” Sydney Morning Herald, February 9, 2018.
Will Maule, “Meet the Black Panther star who gave up everything for Christ, only to land the biggest role of her career,” Faithwire, February 28, 2018.
Relevant editorial, “Black Panther breakout star Letitia Wright shares how Christianity changed her life,” Relevant Magazine, February 21, 2018.
Joanna Robinson, “Black Panther breakout Letitia Wright smashes Disney princess expectations,” Vanity Fair, February 7, 2018.
Sydney Scott, “Black Panther’s Letitia Wright reveals how her faith helped her heal and prepare for the role of a lifetime,” Essence, February 20, 2018.
Christine Thomasos, “Black Panther actress Letitia Wright turned to Christianity when acting became her idol,” Christian Post, February 20, 2018.
Katie Yoder, “Black Panther star almost quit acting to find God: ‘I fell in love’,” Catholic Vote, February 21, 2018.
[Note: this article does not constitute an endorsement of the movie, Black Panther, by Focus on the Family Canada. Consult the full review at Plugged In to help you determine whether Black Panther is appropriate for you or your family.]
Subby Szterszky is the managing editor of Focus on Faith and Culture, an e-newsletter produced by Focus on the Family Canada.
© 2018 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.
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