Black Panther’s Merchant Tribe Elder Started Acting at 88, Proving It’s Never Too Late to Follow Your Dreams

Actress Dorothy Steel
Actress Dorothy Steel
Screenshot: Your Daily Pitch

If anyone ever tells you that it’s too late to pick up a new hobby or follow a passion, or change anything about your life, feel free to look them directly in the eye and call them a liar, because this Wakandan elder has proved otherwise.

Many of you may not necessarily know Dorothy Steel by name, but you definitely know her face by now. The 91-year-old secured her place in Black Panther, the best film of the century (I said what I said), as Wakanda’s Merchant tribe leader.

As it turns out, though, Steel has not even been acting for the majority of her life. She only started pushing her acting chops at the ripe young age of 88, stacking up a handful of credits before she landed the gig with Black Panther.


“It was just amazing, it truly was,” Steel, an Atlanta native, told WSB-TV. “If anyone would have told me I would be an actor, I would’ve said you got to be out of your mind.”

It turns out that in Wakanda, anything is truly possible.

Steel said that she sent in her audition tape, and Marvel responded shortly afterward, insistent that she join the team.

“We sent it in and an hour later they said, ‘Who is that old lady? We want her,’” she recalled.

She secured the spot of the Merchant tribe elder, who also helps to advise the king of Wakanda, T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman in the film.


Boseman, of course, on-set king that he may have been, definitely made sure his elders were taken care of as well.

“Chadwick the king. Every day, he would make sure if I was on the set, he would come by and make sure he gave me a big old hug and kiss,” Steel said.


The elderly actress said that she became the “grandmother” on the set of the film, which she described as more of a movement than a movie.

“We were one big melting pot of black people, and we knew we were doing something that had never been done before,” she said.


She also gave a nod to the powerful representation of women in the movie, adding, “We have power and it’s time for us to step up and take over.”

News Editor at The Root, animation nerd, soca junkie, yogi

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OMG Breanna wrote about something that didn’t make me want to cry and stay in bed all day. lol