‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’: How Dominique Thorne Brings Riri Williams to Life
"[Riri] probably the best person alive at building machines and robots and, and things that can go fast."
Another young, brilliant innovator has arrived on the big screen: Meet Riri Williams.
First introduced on Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Riri is a gifted student who manages to get herself into a sticky situation due to some of her latest inventions. Thankfully, Princess Shuri (and the entire nation of Wakanda) has her back.
“We thought Riri Williams was the perfect character to sort of slot into Black Panther: Wakanda Forever because she could do a lot of things at the same time,” Producer Nate Moore explains. “We liked the idea of Shuri seeing herself reflected in a contemporary in a surprising way. She's funny. She's current. She's innovative. In some ways, she doesn’t realize how smart she really is.
On-screen, Shuri is first shocked, and then incredibly accepting to find out that there’s another young, black girl out there creating things to change the world. “To see Shuri and Riri interact with each other and see these two very smart women realize both the similarities and the difference they have from each other was really interesting.”
Speaking of Riri and Shuri, the actress portraying her on-screen, Dominique Thorne, (who will reprise the role of Riri in the upcoming Disney+ series, Ironheart) actually auditioned for the first Black Panther movie years ago. However, the filmmakers went with Letitia Wright for the role of Shuri, but certainly kept Thorne in the back of their minds…
When it was time to cast Riri, Moore and the rest of the creative team only had one name in mind, and according to him, Thorne “was the first and only call” and “called her out of the blue, she hadn’t heard from us in two-plus years.”
“We really liked her, and we thought she was really smart,” Moore explains. “She has a great presence, and she is funny. She has a lot of attitudes. We remembered that audition, and it was very easy for the whole team to kind of embrace that as an idea.”
Thankfully, Thorne said yes and joined the MCU. “She was game and has been more than what we thought we were getting. She's such a talented actress. She can play both drama and comedy. She's incredibly prepared. She's game for all the physical stuff that these movies tend to throw at performers that are, at times, really surprising.”
While much about Riri will be revealed in the movie, returning writer and director Ryan Coogler acknowledges that she definitely shares a kinship with Shuri, but while Shuri might be brilliant across multiple disciplines, Riri has really honed in on one: mechanics.
“Riri has a very, very strict focus. She’s probably the best person alive at building machines and robots and, and things that can go fast. When we meet her she’s working out of a lab that’s also an auto body shop. We discover that she used to work on cars with her stepdad and she builds things that are big, muscular combustion engines.”
“Riri Williams is such a compelling character in publishing who also has a shared history with grief and trauma,” Moore adds. “There was sort of this karmic kinship between the two characters that became immediately apparent and made our jobs really easy. We thought it was really interesting if Shuri found someone else to be as aspirational as others end her. And so there’s this immediate both rivalry and, and, and kinship that I think plays throughout the rest of the movie and potentially on into the MCU.”
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, directed by Ryan Coogler and produced by Kevin Feige and Nate Moore, opens in theaters November 11, 2022.
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