‘Black Panther’ latest big-screen turn for young Alabama actor

‘Black Panther’ latest big-screen turn for young Alabama actor
Ashton Tyler, lower left, is a young Alabama actor who landed a role in "Black Panther." (contributed)

Ashton Tyler sounds just like any other 11-year-old when talking about “Black Panther,” the Marvel superhero movie that has taken in more than $400 million during its first few weeks in theaters.

Ashton Tyler on the set of “Black Panther” with writer/director Ryan Coogler.

“I loved the whole thing,” he says. “It was just amazing to watch.”

But then he separates himself from the rest of the 11-year-old pack.

“Most of the time, I forgot I was in it,” he says.

Ashton, who already has notched screen time in the Oscar-nominated “Hidden Figures,” appears in “Black Panther” as young T’Challa. Chadwick Boseman, who plays T’Challa as an adult, is the star of the movie.

The young actor, who appears in a flashback sequence, spent about three weeks in Atlanta filming “Black Panther.”

“I never got bored,” says Ashton, a sixth-grader at Opelika Middle School. “All of the sets – they weren’t blue screens or stuff like that. They were actually sets they made. It was just amazing.”

Ashton’s mother, Adrienne Pruitt, says he announced at about age 6 that he wanted to be an actor.

She and her husband, who lives in Hoover, were supportive – to a point.

“We said give it a few years, and if you still want to be an actor, we’ll help you find an agent,” she says. “He got the agent he’s currently working with at about 8, and he’s been working since then.”

Mom doesn’t know where Ashton got his acting genes.

A poster for the “Black Panther” movie. (Marvel Studios)

“I’m in behavioral science, so I guess observing the way people say and do things adds to it,” she says. “And his dad used to be a model.”

Ashton’s acting coach, Meg Deusner, is based in Pelham, and Pruitt manages her son.

Both school systems the family has dealt with – in Pelham and in Opelika – have been supportive of Ashton’s time away from school, recognizing that he’s getting invaluable experience, Pruitt says.

The students are split with their reactions, Ashton says.

“50 percent of them don’t believe me when I say I’m in it,” he says. “The other 25 do. And then the other 25 just want to know how much money I made.”

For the record, Ashton doesn’t know how much he made, but he knows it has been socked away for college. He plans to be a brain surgeon or a therapist, but he also hopes to continue acting.

He’s already filmed “Uncle Drew,” a summer comedy whose cast includes Tiffany Haddish, Shaquille O’Neal and Kyrie Irving. In it, Ashton plays the young version of Dax, the character played by LilRel Howery.

Right now, Ashton is content playing younger versions of the stars.

“I’m trying to do all of the young versions and then evolve like Pokemon and do the older characters,” he says, sounding once again like an 11-year-old.

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