Goldsboro High School graduate Stanley Aughtry never set out to land a role in a blockbuster superhero movie -- but he's ended up with two so far nonetheless.
After first appearing in 2008's Batman film "The Dark Knight," Aughtry returned to movie theaters this year with a larger role in Marvel's "Black Panther."
Though he now lives in Atlanta, Aughtry spent most of his early years in Goldsboro, where he laid the foundations for his journey to the big screen.
Aughtry was born in Washington, D.C., in 1979. His family moved to Goldsboro when he was 3 years old, and he went to school in the city, eventually ending up at Goldsboro High School.
There Aughtry played football for coach Elvin James from 1993 to '95. He was the starting middle linebacker, starting left offensive guard and team captain on the '94 and '95 Mideast Conference Championship teams. He also played trumpet in the school band.
James called Aughtry humble and soft spoken, but said that when it came time to get things done, he got to work.
"When it was time for business, he was always businesslike, whether on the football field or in the classroom or in the band," James said. "If you had a son, you want your son to grow up like Stanley Aughtry."
After graduating from Goldsboro High in '97, Aughtry went on to earn an electrical engineering degree from Hampton University, where he also played football. He later earned his master of business administration degree from Strayer University.
While living in Chicago in 2008, Aughtry got his first taste of the big screen.
"I had heard of some casting calls for 'The Dark Knight,' and I was actually trying to help out some friends from Goldsboro get involved in that. This was before the acting thing had really happened for me," he said. "In the process of that, one of my friends actually put in my information, and I got a call from one of the casting directors to go in and do an audition on the spot."
He got the role and appeared in the film as a Gambol Gang member, with scenes alongside Michael Jai White as Gambol and Heath Ledger as the Joker.
Getting a spot on the cast of "Black Panther" happened in a similar way.
"It's funny, it was a similar scenario where I had some people trying to get into the industry of acting. Through me trying to introduce them to it, it allowed me to go through the process of casting and I ended up getting selected instead of the person who I was trying to get into the film," Aughtry said. "Honestly I didn't know at the time how big my part or role would be, but as time would have it, the director selected me to kind of upgrade me to a principal role, so it gave me the opportunity to have some speaking lines and, of course, some action there on the film."
Aughtry portrayed Shombay, a merchant tribe warrior who first appears during the Warrior Falls scene in the first act of the film. Shombay is a member of first tribe to decline the right to challenge protagonist T'Challa for the right to become king of Wakanda.
Aughtry said that working on "Black Panther" never really felt like work.
"It had a very family-friendly feel to it," he said. "A lot of the scenes that we shot and the places we shot had a lot of the main cast grouped together, so even in our down time we had drummers drumming (who) were originally from Africa, and it just kept the vibe of shooting the film not feeling like work. It felt like we're taking an artistic approach to bring something to screen that will be believable for the public.
Since its release, "Black Panther" has become something of a cultural phenomenon for its representation of black people and its vision of a futuristic, uncolonized African nation. Aughtry knew while on set that the film was unique.
"You knew you (were) doing something special, but you didn't know how big, and now we're seeing it and it's bigger than what we imagined," he said. "It definitely feels good, it's a bit overwhelming at times."
Outside of acting, Aughtry is a businessman who wears several different hats. He considers himself an "actor-preneur" -- someone who uses his regular work to support himself and his acting career.
Aughtry has worked as a manager for the Norfolk Southern railroad company in Atlanta for 15 years, owns a 360 Clean franchise and is the president of an investment group called Coppertone Investments, LLC. By forming a solid foundation for himself through work outside of acting, Aughtry is able to pursue film roles without becoming the stereotypical "starving actor."
"Those are some of the hats I have to put on and take off and put on and take off, but they kind of make up the whole actor-preneurship," he said.
With his experience in "The Dark Knight" and "Black Panther" under his belt, Aughtry is looking forward to more roles in the future.
"I'm just looking forward to as new projects come forward, even a sequel to 'Black Panther,' just seeing increasing opportunities in roles as the years come."