As soon as you saw her on the big screen, it was like she was destined to play royalty. Dorothy Steel was 95-year-old actress who died Friday morning at her home in Detroit. “She went out strong,” her publicist said. Her agent Cindy Butler confirmed, according to People. A cause of death was not yet shared.
“It’s with a heavy heart I announce this morning Dorothy Steel transitioned this morning in her hometown of Detroit. That is what she wanted to be home,” Butler wrote. “Thank you Ms. Dorothy for giving me the opportunity to ride this wave with you. Thank you for all the Casting Directors who hired Ms. Dorothy. Thank you to the world for loving on her from afar.”
Steel played a tribe leader in the fictional land of Wakanda in the film, which was shot in metro Atlanta. Her role in “Black Panther” was her biggest, but she had a handful of credits in other films, including “Jumanji: The Next Level.”
“It was just amazing, it truly was,” Steel told Channel 2 of the experience in 2018. “If anyone would have told me I would be an actor, I would’ve said you got to be out of your mind.”
Steel was born in Detroit in 1926 and didn’t land her first acting role until she was 88 years old. “Black Panther” was her first appearance on the big screen.
She was in the middle of filming “Black Panther 2” when she died, according to her publicist. The Marvel franchise flew her home to Detroit to spend her last moments with loved ones.
“This was going to be my last role,” Steel said, according to her publicist.
She begun acting when she was 88, and landed the role of a lifetime as an elder in Black Panther, proving that it’s never too late to go for your dreams.
“It was just amazing, it truly was,” Steel told WSBTV-Channel 2’s Nefertiti Jaquez.
The film did and still is breaking records. It’s recorded that it hit $218 million in sales over a three-day weekend as well as is breaking merchandizing records, not to mention it’s the best February release of any movie, ever AND the best first-weekend release of any Marvel film.
Steel landed the job after she sent her audition tape when Marvel called her last year.
“We sent it in and an hour later they said, “Who is that old lady? We want her,’” she recalled.
Steel ended up landing the part of the merchant tribal elder who advises the King of Wakanda played by lead actor Chadwick Boseman.
“Chadwick 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 old hug and kiss,” Steel said.
With most of the cast being younger, Steel said she quickly became the “grandmother” on the set of ‘Black Panther,’ which she said is not just a movie but a movement.
“We were one big melting pot of black people and we knew we were doing something that had never been done before. Ya know?” she said.
Steel’s accomplishment is really extraordinary, especially for an older Black woman in Hollywood. While male actors see their careers peak at the age of 46, female actors reach their professional pinnacles at age 30, according to a TIME analysis of the careers of over 6,000 actors and actresses.