Black Panther Star Letitia Wright is currently starring in Aisha, a film about a young Nigerian lady navigating the bureaucracy and social services while applying for asylum in Ireland. She explained to Sky News how she spoke with others who had experienced the same problems as her character’s to prepare for the part.
Letitia Wright may now be seen in a movie dealing with issues of grief and how we treat individuals from other countries after starring in the eagerly awaited Black Panther sequel Wakanda Forever.
But Aisha is a study of the very real immigration system in Ireland, not a fanciful setting where superheroes protect the peace.
Wright plays the title role of Aisha, a Nigerian woman who befriends a former prisoner (played by The Crown’s Josh O’Connor) while seeking asylum in Ireland, but whose future in the country is under threat. The drama is from writer-director Frank Berry, who is known for his socially conscious films.
Wright admitted to Sky News that she spoke with numerous people who had experienced the same problems as her character’s in order to prepare for the part.
She stated, “I got to have actual dialogues with women who’ve gone through similar situations as Aisha because Frank [Berry] was able to connect me to the folks he’s been dealing with for the past four or five years of him developing the script and putting it together.
I had to watch the documentaries and read the research materials that Frank and our production firm had given me. Then, I had to sit with it and let the stories flow through me and into the character of Aisha.
“Because on paper, the work is essentially done for you, it’s wonderful, and it’s on the page, but it’s even better when you’re speaking to them in person.
“It provides a reality and a truth that you can’t discover by maybe just reading it and not communicating to people on a real level,” the actor says. “It channels the scene, it channels you as an actor to simply be more sensitive and it does something for you in the situation.”
The realities of how the system actually works (or, more accurately, doesn’t appear to function) make for frustrating viewing as fans watch Aisha struggle to build a life in Ireland.
The work, according to Wright, has stuck with her.
“In a way, I regard it as truth when I represent any human being on TV,” she remarked. You realize that this story is patched together from all of the voices of the women, young men, and children who have experienced so much within the system, but we just found a linear way to take you through that journey in the form of a video.
However, it does stick with you and help you realize how important it is for us to give the voiceless a platform, which is what your project is doing for you.
Irishman Berry said the inspiration for the movie came to him while doing research for his previous film about the Irish jail system and learning that it was controlled by the same government agency as the immigration system.
The next step, he claims, was to “listen and meet individuals for a lengthy period of time,” in an effort to make Aisha as accurate as possible.
Since my background is in documentary, he explained, “it comes from a documentary impulse; really, it’s to create a space for discussion.”
“And if it’s not accurate, then it’s undermined… The goals and purpose of the whole endeavor is to spark conversation; that’s really what inspires me to do what I do.”
Wright claims that the reason she wanted to be engaged was because the character of Aisha felt so real.
She remarked, “I’m drawn to stories that [examine] characters on a human level [and are] multi-layered – I thrive for that, I’m thirsty for it, and I try to look for that in each project.
“Aisha is a lovely addition to my body of truth-telling, but yeah, I try to find projects and characters that will move you because cinema and filmmaking are both very difficult; it’s not an easy process.
The goal of my life is to do something meaningful. “So you want to make it fun, you want to make it impactful, and you want your audience to feel something,” the speaker said.