Dorothy Steel, known for role in ‘Black Panther,’ dies at 95

Steel pursued an acting career at the age of 88, which led to her participation in the groundbreaking project that became one of the highest-grossing films of all-time

Marvel’s Black Panther film series has lost another leader.

Dorothy Steel, who made her feature film debut as a tribal leader in the 2018 blockbuster, died Friday at the age of 95, according to media reports. The cause of death has not been reported.

The actress, who played the role of Merchant Tribe Elder in Black Panther was cast again in the sequel Black Panther 2, which is currently being filmed in Atlanta. She was flown to her hometown of Detroit to spend her final days, WSB-TV reports.

Dorothy Steel (Photo: iSubmit Talent & Modeling Agency)

The epitome of the adage that ‘it’s never too late,’ Steel first pursued an acting career at the age of 88. She was in disbelief when she scored the role in the groundbreaking film series.

With encouragement from her grandson, Steel auditioned for Black Panther and received a callback within an hour, putting her in a league with Hollywood veterans like the late Chadwick Boseman, whose character as the king of Wakanda was advised by Merchant Tribe Elder, and Angela Bassett, Wakanda’s queen.

Steel hesitated at first to audition for the character, dismissing the project as a “comic strip,” before her grandson convinced her to do it, according to the Washington Post, That ultimately led to her participation in one of the highest-grossing Marvel Cinematic Universe releases of all time.

“It was just amazing, it truly was,” Steel said of Black Panther in 2018, WSB-TV reports. “If anyone would have told me I would be an actor, I would’ve said you got to be out of your mind.”

Steel said her role as Tribal Elder was fitting, especially because on set she also doubled as the resident grandmother.

Dorothy Steel as Merchant Tribe Elder in “Black Panther.” (Photo: iSubmit Talent & Modeling Agency)

“Chadwick [Boseman] 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 ol’ hug and kiss,” Steel said, theGrio previously reported. “We were one big melting pot of Black people and we knew we were doing something that had never been done before,” Steel added.

Before being picked up for Black Panther, Steel appeared on television, including one episode of The Trouble with Going Somewhere in 2015 and four episodes of Saints & Sinners from 2016 to 2018. After Black Panther, she was cast in an episode of The Oval and played the role of Village Elder in Jumanji: The Next Level. She had said that Black Panther 2 would be her final appearance on screen.

Steel was born on Feb. 23, 1926, in Detroit. In her first career, she worked for the federal government for decades, retiring as a senior revenue officer for the Internal Revenue Service in 1984.

She later called the Virgin Islands home for 20 years before relocating to Georgia to be near her son and grandson, according to the Post.

Steel says her leap of faith turned out to be one of her biggest blessings and she encouraged others to do the same.

“Keep your mind open and keep faith in yourself that you can do this thing,” Steel told the Post in a 2018 interview. “All you have to do is step out there and try it. And if you don’t make it on the first step, step out there again and you’ll find something you can step out on. But don’t just sit back. Life is not just about sitting back. Life is about stepping out.”

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