Not long ago, he was cleaning houses. Now this Beaufort man is in a Hollywood mega-hit

From 'The Walking Dead' to 'Black Panther': A look at Beaufort actor's TV, film appearances

Michael McNeil, of Beaufort, has appeared in many movies and tv shows, including the most recent blockbuster super hero hit, Black Panther.
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Michael McNeil, of Beaufort, has appeared in many movies and tv shows, including the most recent blockbuster super hero hit, Black Panther.

Michael McNeil spent more than 17 hours in an Atlanta studio last year, dressed up and made up and not sure whether the elaborate dance routine he rehearsed with numerous other strangers would see the big screen.

While the Beaufort native worked, he felt detached from the metro movie set, transported to the fictional African nation depicted in this month’s blockbuster hit, “Black Panther.”

“I really felt like I was in Wakanda, in Africa” McNeil said. “...The dance for the men was almost like a pulling or a drawing of energy from the Earth. When we were filming this scene, it felt like we were pulling the energy from the Earth. It was real to me.”

The effort landed the Seabrook man an appearance in one of the biggest box office hits ever. Black Panther surpassed $500 million globally Thursday, according to news reports.

McNeil’s day on set translated into about 40 seconds on the big screen during the Marvel film’s release last week. In makeup and costume and in the background on a boat as a member of the River Tribe, even McNeil’s mother didn’t recognize him during the first showing.

But his phone began buzzing with friends who did.

On set, McNeil saw the movie’s star, Anderson native Chadwick Boseman, and the film’s other big names.

McNeil moved to Atlanta after registering for a casting call for “Avengers: Infinity War,” and has worked on 44 productions, he said. The work included an appearance as a zombie in the television series “The Walking Dead,” and a role in a Verizon commercial.

Before answering a casting call for the Netflix comedy in Charleston in late 2016, McNeil owned a cleaning company. The Battery Creek High School graduate worked for years at a hair and nail salon after cosmetology school and designed his own line of bowties.

On his Facebook page you can find videos of McNeil’s appearances acting in the YouTube series and a tutorial on the business page for his Dijano Bows, showing the proper technique for knotting the ties.

He sold the fashion accessories online and in a downtown Beaufort business before his move to Atlanta.

The 34-year-old had no theater experience before working on “Naked,” a Netflix move starring Marlon Wayans. But McNeil said he has always been drawn to perform, a desire he attributes in part to his musician father and an extended family of gospel singers.

“I’ve always wanted to be global,” he said. “That’s always been my dream.”

Now he’s taking acting classes in Savannah and voice lessons in Beaufort.

He plans to move to New York City in May to pursue an acting career. He’ll audition for in June for a room of agents, including some from Broadway.

“I plan to be a millionaire someday in this life,” he said.

Stephen Fastenau: 843-706-8182, @IPBG_Stephen