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Blerd Rising Star: Daisy Lightfoot breathes life into Black Panther's Shuri for a new generation
Daisy Lightfoot was only 13 years old when she went to Hollywood with her mom to audition for her first paid acting role. She landed it, and although it was a supporting role to a gigantic fly (yes, you read that right), the experience launched her career and led to several more projects for the child actress. On a suggestion from her agent, she gave voice-overs a try, and when she landed that role, too, a whole new world opened up for her.
Her voice can be heard in games such as Horizon Zero Dawn and the 2017 animated series Marvel's Spider-Man (she actually voiced Electro). Lightfoot booked her dream job after that when Marvel asked her to voice Princess Shuri, the brilliant technologist and sister to Black Panther, opposite James Mathis III, in the animated series Marvel’s Avengers: Black Panther’s Quest on Disney XD.
Since then, Lightfoot has played Shuri in several Disney properties: LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Black Panther-Trouble in Wakanda, Avengers Assemble and Marvel Heroes Rising, for which she got her own special episode, Marvel Heroes Rising: Operation Shuri.
SYFY WIRE spoke to the talented voice-over actress about redacted scripts, why she talks to the TV, and how a little Tamagotchi started it all.
Where did you grow up?
Virginia, but I'm a military kid, so I grew up all over the place. But [I] kind of remember everything from Virginia — I think every military kid kind of has to choose a home at some point. And Virginia was just that spot for me.
What was your first paid acting gig?
It was this live-action short film Max and the Furious Fly. Without going into too much detail, the main character was a giant fly and I was a gymnast. They were asking for a skill set, and I could play a gymnast and an actress. So I hopped on set and that was my first gig.
It was something where I came out to L.A. for two weeks and literally booked that job within those two weeks. I was with my mom at the time. 13. Then I asked my mom if we could stay for pilot season and we haven't been back to Virginia to live since.
What made you decide to audition for voice-over work?
Honestly, it was my agent. They submitted me on a show and I got a call. That was my first ever voice-over audition. Then I got a call back where I went all the way to producers on the very first try and my agent smelled opportunity. So we kinda just kept going, and it kicked off from there.
So what was your first paid voice-over gig?
Believe it or not, my first paid voice-over gig was for Tamagotchi. Remember those? I'm the one giving you all the instructions!
Had you done work for Marvel before you got the role of Shuri on Panther's Quest?
No, that was my first one.
Did you find out before or after the Black Panther live-action movie dropped?
Before, actually, so we wrapped our season before the movie came out.
That part makes you crazy. It's like I did this fantastic thing and everybody's getting hyped about the Black Panther movie and [in my head I’m saying,] “I did it too!”
How nerve-wracking is Marvels’ audition process?
It was nerve-wracking when I figured out what we were actually doing, because with VO, especially with companies like Marvel, everything is so "hush-hush." The project title will be called something like “Spoon,” and you hope whatever "Spoon" is, it'll be fantastic. But you do not think it’s a Marvel project.
I actually did a home record for the audition. I just emailed it in like I would any other audition, and then my agent told me that they wanted me to do a little tweak to the age of the character. Younger is never an issue. So I did it again and they liked it, but I didn't hear anything for a while. Then my agent says, “Well, let's just keep our fingers crossed, because it's for Marvel.” And I was like, “Wait, what?”
I think it was maybe not even a month later, I got a booking and they told me it was for [Black Panther’s Quest], and I literally fell to the floor. I remember falling to the floor and just sitting there like, “This is not happening.”
When you're just honestly always trying to make sure that you're the best that you can be and treating every audition like it is this huge project, for me to find out then that it paid off and I was [going to be playing Shuri] was amazing.
Did you get to see any of the movie scripts for context?
I just remember redacted pages from the film being brought in and they were incredibly careful with them. So we got maybe like three pages. You would think it was the CIA.
How much fun has it been playing opposite James Mathis III as Black Panther?
It has literally been a dream come true. I didn't know him before. I stood next to him every week and was able to really bounce off of him. He's such an incredible talent and an incredible person and an incredible dad.
I’m so grateful to be working alongside him, and it was just like an immediate connection. That brother-sister dynamic was so easy to fall into.
Did the two of you work with a dialogue coach?
No, that's the accent that we kind of came up with together based on a few different mixes of African dialects. It's just kind of cheating something so that it sounds a little more clear for a younger audience.
I've done a few accents before. A few African dialects before as well. I wouldn't say that it's difficult or it's easy. It takes practice, you know what I mean? The way that I study (and my family makes fun of me for this) is I will watch things on different networks like the Africa channel or Asia or Latin American channels and just kind of study accents as much as possible.
So your family basically teases you because you talk to the TV.
Literally. My family's like, “Can you not? Can we just watch this show?"
When you got the call saying you were going to be part of the Marvel Rising series, did you fall down again?
I have a flair for the dramatic, so yes, more falling down. Again, I was super thrilled and did not expect it. It wasn’t even on my radar. Plus, it's always nice to be playing a familiar character and one that I love.
My agent requested that I never scream in her ear like that again.
What's been your favorite scene from both shows?
From Panther’s Quest, [this is a little bit of a spoiler] but that final scene with Bask and T'Challa and myself, it was so emotional. Like I remember being in the booth and all of us were in tears.
Those little stifles of cries? Those are real because it’s an emotional scene. We see our ancestry in that scene. Yeah, we were all going through it.
Marvel's Rising dedicated an entire episode to Shuri. That must have been amazing.
It was so fun, just kind of encountering the girls in each of their spaces was so fun for me. You're in the bike shop, you're at the high school, you're doing all of these cool things and I’m just trying to fit in just being my little Shuri self.
I need to probably start separating the fact that I'm not actually Shuri in real life!
Is there a character out there that you would just love to voice?
I'm trying to think about all of the ones from my childhood that I was especially ...
Weirdly enough, I would love to play Suzy from The Rugrats. I mean [the original Suzy voice actress] Cree Summer is literally the G.O.A.T. Naturally, my voice does not have as much rasp as Cree’s. But I'm always wondering, “How do I get that? Do I catch a cold? What do I do?”
Any advice for people who want to get into voice acting?
It really requires you to study. Watching shows and kind of mimicking those voices to give yourself that foundation. Really understanding the nuances and the small things about somebody's voice — texture or diction or what have you. These are all things that you have to start paying attention to.
Being prepared before you try to find an agent is going to put you at an advantage. In this industry, there is no one cheat code to get you in the game.
See what I did there?
That was very good.
I’m a blerd with Dad jokes. That’s who I am as a person.