Letitia Wright talks playing a British activist in ‘Mangrove’

Wright plays Altheia Jones-LeCointe in the first film from Steve McQueen’s ‘Small Axe’ anthology. 

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Ever since Letitia Wright burst onto our radar as Princess Shuri in Black Panther, we’ve been a little obsessed. Now, she’s starring in Mangrove, the first film from British director Steve McQueen’s highly-anticipated Small Axe anthology on Amazon. 

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According to the film’s synopsis, Mangrove centers on Frank Crichlow (Shaun Parkes), the owner of Notting Hill’s Caribbean restaurant, Mangrove, a lively community base for locals, intellectuals, and activists. In a reign of racist terror, the local police raid Mangrove time after time, making Frank and the local community take to the streets in a peaceful protest in 1970. 

When nine men and women, including Frank and leader of the British Black Panther Movement Altheia Jones-LeCointe (Wright), and activist Darcus Howe (Malachi Kirby), are wrongly arrested and charged with incitement to riot, a highly publicized trial ensues, leading to hard-fought win for those fighting against discrimination.

Letitia Wright in ‘Mangrove’ (Amazon Prime)

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theGrio caught up with the British beauty recently to find out how she tackled the true story of her character, Altheia Jones-LeCointe.

“What struck me most is that we didn’t hear about this story prior to receiving the script. It wasn’t something that we knew within our community or was given to us as young Black people in this country to know about what was happening back then and what they were fighting for. So that struck me. And also, what made me want to tell the story again was just the fact that you don’t always get the opportunity to play someone like this or represent someone like this and someone who had something to say. So I was very intrigued by that. I knew there was sort of purpose. I knew it was filled with an opportunity to teach people,” Wright says.

Small Axe is one of the first projects that highlight the kinds of oppression Black folks across the pond experience. Considering the friction that has arisen between British actors playing African American roles, the anthology may offer some examples of the commonality of our shared experiences across the African diaspora. 

“I can only speak for myself. I just see myself as an artist and I see myself as someone that just wants to be a vessel for good stories. And wherever that story is and wherever I can be a vessel, I tried to be there at the same time,” Wright said of the controversy.

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She adds: “I am grateful that this series can, yes, inform our brothers and sisters across the diaspora that, you know, we struggle in all parts of the land. We struggle in all parts of the world. Whether its in Brazil, whether it’s in Africa, whether it’s in know America, kind of wherever we are, there’s a unified type of, unfortunately, a unified struggle…Hopefully, yes, it does bring insight and hopefully, yes, we can see each other’s lives as fellow artists and respect each other as such.”

Check out the full interview below:

Mangrove premieres Nov. 20 on Amazon Prime Video. 

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