Up-and-coming Atlanta stunt performer pounces full force into the land of 'Wakanda'
Actress and stunt performer Shalet Monique has always pictured her life as a superhero movie.
As a mother of two, she has successfully raised her two sons while balancing a variety of professions, including nursing and teaching.
As a stunt performer, she has flown through the air and attacked villainous rivals with only her fists and fury.
And now, after only two years of residing in Atlanta, she is helping to provide encouragement and joy to billions of people worldwide in her latest role on the stunt team of “Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever,” the highly awaited sequel for the hit Marvel Cinematic Universe 2018 film “Black Panther.”
“I’m still in shock and still don’t know what to expect,” said Monique, whose previous work includes roles in the HBO series “We Run This City” and indie-produced web series “Jurnee’s Revenge.” “For me, everything is a learning experience, and this was the best one that you could have.”
A member of Atlanta’s bustling acting community since July 2020, Monique began stunt classes shortly thereafter, being introduced to the field by a friend.
Oftentimes the only Black woman in her training courses, Monique soon developed skillsets in choreographed fighting sequences, weapons training and specialized stunt rigging.
“The classes taught me that nothing was impossible,” she said. “It helped me add to my toolbox; you want to add as many tools as possible and sharpen them with each opportunity; its gritty, its dirty and its hard work, but when you’re passionate about it, you’re willing to do it.”
It was this passion and persistence that led her to a casting call for specialty stunt performers, and, after submitting a self tape of her abilities, walking onto the set of “Wakanda” in February 2022.
“I had never been anywhere like it before,” said Monique of the film’s set. “It was great being there, and also seeing all of the technical elements of the stunt work in which we did. Just the experience of flying through the air on ropes and handling some of the weapons, it was just fun and cool. The adrenaline of it all was unmatched.”
During filming, Monique, who is also featured in another upcoming feature film role in the holiday movie, “It’s Christmas Again,” bonded immediately with her stunt team and Ryan Coogler, the film’s director.
“He’s just so passionate and dedicated,” she said. “When he talks to you and directs you, it’s almost if he’s breathing life into you at the same time. It was so reassuring to have someone on set like that to let you know that you got this.”
While the experience was one of excitement and thrill, Monique admits that besides her involvement in a “high action” scene, she and her castmates were mostly kept in the dark about the majority of the production’s details, including the plot and storylines.
“It was very under wraps. Ryan Coogler does not play,” said Monique. “When I say that, we didn’t get any call sheets, everything was digital and went away really fast; we didn’t know the context of the scenes in which we were playing. It was a lot.”
She believes that the hard work and dedication will pay off heavily on screen, especially for fans anticipating how the film will pay tribute to “Black Panther” lead Chadwick Boseman, who passed away in August of 2020 after a long and private battle with stage IV colon cancer.
“Everyone was ready to go on to set and fight to tell his story. It was definitely a labor of love, and was very inspiring,” said Monique. “I just thought that way they handled it was beautiful. When you watch it … you will be able to see his legacy and not his trauma.”
Although her scenes were shot nearly a year since the film’s release on Friday, the second-year Georgia resident is still processing the impact of being a part of a movie that has been deemed as one of the most anticipated releases of 2022.
“I feel so honored to be a part of such a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Monique. “They birthed something very brilliant and beautiful. It goes to show the warrior in us all and I know that it will impact the culture within itself … and it’s only the beginning.”