CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Marvel Studios' highly anticipated Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is set to hit theaters Nov. 11 and it will be one Corpus Christi native's big screen debut.
Neal Tyagi, a Ray High School graduate, did underwater stunt work in the movie.
"What an opportunity it was to have a small town boy show up on this big production, multi-million dollar production," Neal Tyagi told 3NEWS.
Tyagi landed a gig on the film due to his freediving expertise. Tyagi currently teaches freediving, a form of underwater diving that relies on breath-holding until resurfacing, in Oahu, Hawaii.
It was a social media post calling for a Mexican expert in the art of freediving that caught Tyagi's attention.
"I was like, 'Okay cool, I am half Mexican and I hold my breath for a living, I teach people how to do that.' So, I sent a picture and put a little bit of my accolades," Tyagi said. Within two days, Tyagi got an e-mail back that the production team liked his look. The next day he was flying to Atlanta and the day after that, he was on set filming, he said.
Tyagi was part of the Aquatic Action Team on the film. He did not do stunt work for a particular character, but worked as a utility stuntman doing underwater fight scenes for the background of the movie.
Filming was no easy task. The aquatic team was expected to hold their breath underwater for scenes up to 1 minute and 20 seconds and weren't allowed to have air bubbles visible during filming. Unlike other films meant to take place underwater, there was no CGI used for the aquatic beings in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Tyagi said.
"That was a very particular thing that the editing team did not want to deal with, having these people underwater to have these bubbles come out. We are aquatic beings," Tyagi said.
The aquatic team did not wear goggles or diving masks while filming, and the lights made visibility non-existent during underwater fight scenes.
"The most challenging part of it all was not being able to see," Tyagi said. "You are blind underwater for the most part and we are like, throwing punches at each other and trying to sell it."
Tyagi said the team created a system to be sure they knew who was throwing and receiving punches to make is seem "as seamless as possible."
Tyagi said he was also able to work with and train some of the main actors during underwater scenes.
Cast and crew screening is Tuesday in Atlanta, but he will miss it because he's visiting family in Corpus Christi. He said he will see it in theaters along with everyone else.
"Get ready to watch it! It is a super exciting film, especially in memory of Chadwick, and to be a film of people of color to show up on the big screen is powerful," Tyagi said. "I am excited to be a part of it and have my profession and my practice be a thing that I got to offer for that. It was everything."
Tyagi couldn't talk much about the movie's plot, but said this was the opportunity of a lifetime he will forever be proud of.
"To be Latino, to be from Corpus, to show up on the big stage, I just feel like it takes time and it takes skill and it was all worth it," Tyagi said. "It was super special and overwhelming in the best way."
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