Letitia Wright says “it’s sad and it hurts” that historically there has not been enough space carved out for black women to succeed.
The Black Panther actress, who will soon be seen in Sir Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology, said black performers have to keep on “building a wall” to help each other.
Wright stars in Mangrove, which follows the march of 150 protesters of West Indian, African and South Asian heritage in Notting Hill, west London, to local police stations in protest against police harassment in their communities, including the Mangrove restaurant.
Nine protest leaders, Frank Crichlow, Darcus Howe, Altheia Jones-LeCointe, Barbara Beese, Rupert Boyce, Rhodan Gordon, Anthony Innis, Rothwell Kentish and Godfrey Millett, were arrested and charged with incitement to riot.
The group later became known as the Mangrove Nine.
Wright told Elle UK: “Preparing for it, doing it, giving all that you can to it and then you get to 2O2O and you’re like, hold up a minute, this is happening again.
“People aren’t going out to protest because they want to.
“It’s aggravation after aggravation and standing up for justice.”
Discussing the way black women have historically been treated, she said: “It’s sad and it hurts.
“But, the funny thing is, if you actually step aside from that mentality and go, ‘no, there’s space for all of us’ (to succeed), we just have to keep building a wall.
“The bricks at the bottom have to be laid first before the bricks on the second row can be laid.
“So, if you say, ‘OK, you lay your brick there, and I’ll lay my brick in the next two months.
“Let me make sure that your brick that’s laid is good and solid and paid well… Then, soon, you have a wall.
“Yes, I stole that from Will Smith.
“I’ve listened to that since I was 16, but he has a point: we have to be bricks, we have to be that solid foundation for each other or else what’s the point?”
Wright credits her small group of friends on helping her deal with the pressures of the industry and said: “I really pride myself on the circle that I keep and it’s a very small circle, it’s almost like a dot.
“I remember I asked actor Naomie Harris a few years back for some advice, and she met with me and said, ‘How you carry yourself is how people will respond to you.
“So, if I turned up and I have a Gucci bag or (I’m) in the club every day, there’s no problem with that, if that’s your vibe, but I’m very quiet and all about the work.”
Among her friends are her Small Axe co-star John Boyega, and Farming actor Damson Idris, who also attended the Identity School of Acting, and she said: “We’re all a family, we all support each other.
“And, I’m not going to lie, in the UK because we’re so small, like, it’s such a small pond of actors, we just support each other and love each other.”
The November issue of Elle UK is on sale from October 1.