03.28.2018

She started acting at 88. Four years later, she’s recognized everywhere for ‘Black Panther.’

She started acting at 88. Four years later, she’s recognized everywhere for ‘Black Panther.’ Dorothy Steel, 92, starred as a merchant tribe elder in the blockbuster film, “Black Panther.” (Photos courtesy of Cindy Butler and Matt Kennedy)

Dorothy Steel’s mind was made up. She had only been acting for three years and didn’t want to audition for some “comic strip” movie she had never heard of. At 91, Steel told herself there was no way she could learn how to speak with an African accent that the role required.

In late November 2016, Steel asked her agent to kindly decline the invitation, and went about her day.

When her 26-year-old grandson, Niles Wardell, called, Steel casually mentioned the offer. Wardell was stunned. This is not just comics, he told his grandmother, this is “Black Panther.” This is a big deal. When she still wasn’t convinced, he decided to turn the tables on the woman who has been his source of wisdom.

“My grandson said to me, ‘You’re always talking about stepping out on faith. I either want you to man up or shut up,’ ” Steel recalled, laughing at the memory.

For the full story, visit TheWashingtonPost.com/InspiredLife.