DeWanda Wise is being heralded as the first Black woman featured in the Jurassic franchise for her role as Kayla Watts in Jurassic World Dominion, in theaters today. But the actress is quick to remind media that before Watts there was Vanessa Lee Chester, the then-13-year-old child star who played Kelly Malcolm in Steven Spielberg‘s 1997 action flick The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

“There will be no Kelly erasure,” says Wise as she reflects on the impact of seeing Chester on screen at that time. “I was talking to somebody about it the other day and they were talking about being a young gymnast and seeing that for the first time at that time. She’s just like flipping through the Jurassic Park sequel just being Jeff Goldblum’s daughter. It’s phenomenal to see.”

Wise also points out there have been a number of Black characters throughout the Jurassic world, both in the books and on-screen adaptations, including Samuel L. Jackson who appeared in the original 1993 film. “This franchise, blessedly, already has a good rapport with Black folks,” she adds. “So stepping into something and deducing what that will look like and feel like behind Omar Sy, behind Justice Smith in the Jurassic World franchise, to bring that wild feminine energy into the mix, it was my honor. It also felt like it was a very clear space for that energy.”

Audiences will likely take to Wise’s character as they did Chester’s, given Watts’ seeming potential to be the one who saves the day in the latest flick. As a former military pilot, who comes from a long line of women who served in the Air Force, she’s not one to back down from a challenge. Neither is Wise who made sure she was in top shape to step into Watts’ shoes.

“There’s a moment in the film where Kayla pulls Owen out of the water and Chris Pratt’s one thigh is larger than my waist so I was like, ‘Okay what are we going to need to build in terms of her entire look to sell this moment,” Wise recalls.

Working with trainers, Wise did what needed to be done — and then some, she tells us. “Before takes, any bodybuilder can tell you, all you gotta do is a quick pump, so if there’s any behind-the-scenes footage of me, it’s just me on set lifting weights in between takes looking like I’m going to ask for a protein shake.”

Check out our full interview with DeWanda Wise in the video above. Jurassic World Dominion is in theaters today.

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