As unprecedented anticipation builds for Marvel’s next big blockbuster film, “Black Panther” — which has already broken advance ticket sales records — fans anticipate seeing a bevy of acclaimed black actresses, including Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira, light up the big screen on Feb. 16.
The excellence, power and beauty of “black girl magic” will be on full display in the Ryan Coogler-helmed film, which will become part of a decades-long history of black actresses making splashes in science fiction and post-apocalyptic genres — on the big and small screens.
This can be traced back to Nichelle Nichols, considered the first black woman in sci-fi because of her groundbreaking role in the seminal 1960s television series “Star Trek,” in which she portrayed communications officer Lt. Nyota Uhura.
Leslie Uggams — another pioneer in that golden era of television — has a new fan base and an unexpected career resurgence thanks to 2016’s “X-Men” spinoff “Deadpool.”
“Well, let me just say that, especially with the men, they just love Blind Al,” the showbiz legend said of her foul-mouthed, cynical character with superpowers of her own.
“I’ve got all these fans from little boys — who I was shocked they were even going to see the movie — from 8 years old, and up. … I also get a lot of senior citizens who’ve come to me, whose sons and daughters have said, ‘Ma, Dad, you’ve gotta go see this movie.’”
The Ryan Reynolds-led comical comic flick went on to become a sleeper hit — grossing a whopping $783 million internationally and becoming the best-grossing R-rated movie of all time.
“Deadpool 2” is scheduled for release May 18.
“I had no idea it would be as big as it became, but I had a feeling early on,” Uggams, 74, confided. “It was very, very hush-hush to the point where … even how I got the script.”
The Tony and Emmy Award winner had to audition via cell phone video while she was performing in a Boca Raton production of “Mame,” with no solid information about the project.
“I love to go see all those movies, and I do go see everything, but I have to be quite honest — this is a real comic book legend character, and I had no idea,” Uggams revealed. “I didn’t even know what the name of the movie was I was auditioning for. I had no clue about the character, and I just thought, ‘What the heck? I’m just gonna go for it, and use my imagination with the lines that I’ve been given.’”
Uggams, an alum of the 1977 award-winning TV miniseries “Roots,” said it dawned on her that the character could have been blind as she was read material for the second audition. After meeting director Tim Miller upon returning to New York City, she was offered the role — and sworn to secrecy. She couldn’t even tell her 40-year-old son, a big comic book fan.
And the rest, as they say is, history.
Uggams — who also stars on the Fox hit drama “Empire” — is proud to be a part of the discussion about diversity — specifically black women in science fiction realm.
“I’ve been in this business a long time, and it’s so thrilling to see women of color being part of this kind of genre,” she shared.
“It’s very exciting to see also how many comic books that there were written before that were written with black superheroes and finally now are being shown. I think it’s just fabulous. It’s so much fun to play these kind of characters, and it’s just wonderful.”