Black Panther actress Dorothy Steel, 95, died on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at her home in Detroit. While a cause of death has not been disclosed, her agent Cindy Butler confirmed the news in a post published on Facebook.
“It’s with a heavy heart I announce this morning Dorothy Steel transitioned … in her hometown of Detroit. That is what she wanted to be, home. 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,” Butler posted.
Steel played the role of Merchant Tribe Elder in Black Panther and was filming the sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in Atlanta when she was flown back to Detroit for her final days. She didn’t launch her acting career until turning 88 and has also appeared on the television series “The Trouble with Going Somewhere” and “Saints & Sinners” and the blockbuster film Jumanji: The Next Level with Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson.
Steel previously stated that her grandson encouraged her to audition for the Black Panther role which cast her alongside the late Chadwick Boseman and Angela Bassett. During a 2018 appearance on “Steve Harvey,” Steel said she was reluctant to appear in a “comic strip at my age,” before landing the role in the iconic film.
“He said, ‘Grandma, you always talk about stepping out onto nothing, letting your faith take you there. Now how come you don’t do it yourself? Either you’re gonna step out there or you’re gonna shut up,’ ” she told Harvey at the time.
Steel was born on Feb. 23, 1926, in Detroit and worked for the federal government for decades before retiring as a senior revenue officer for the Internal Revenue Service in 1984. She later moved to the Virgin Islands for 20 years before relocating to Georgia to be near her son and grandson, according to The Washington Post. Take a look at Steel chatting it up with Harvey as well as a clip from her iconic performance.