In Marvel Studios’ decade-long run, 17 successful blockbusters have featured a white character as the lead. However, Captain America: Civil War was the first small baby step in the right direction when it introduced Black Panther into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The events of that film would lead up to the Wakandian king’s standalone film, Black Panther.
But Black Panther is so much more than the title character’s first standalone film. It represents what a superhero means to a person of color. Representation matters, and as we move towards a brighter future, Marvel Studios will have more and more films that are a reflection of today’s society. That’s why Black Panther is such an important film.
We had the chance to sit down with the cast and creators Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa), Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia), Michael B. Jordan (“Erik Killmonger), Danai Gurira (Okoye), Angela Bassett (Ramonda), Forest Whitaker (Zuri), Andy Serkis (Ulysses Klaue), Martin Freeman (Everett K Ross), Daniel Kaluuya (W’Kabi), Winston Duke (M’Baku), Letitia Wright (Shuri), director Ryan Coogler and producer Kevin Feige to talk about the importance of Black Panther, what making this MCU installment meant to them, and what they hope the film accomplishes. Check out what they had to say here below.
While many of us still hold on the hope that characters who have not appeared in the MCU get their chance to do so in the foreseeable future, what makes the Black Panther character different is the fact that he is a superhero of color. The added fact that he is also a politician separates him from the rest. Representation matters, and here, it plays such a huge role because now we get to see people of color play a vital role in shaping the MCU into what it will become. So many fans no longer have to wait to see women or people of color leading in their own films.
“I’ve been waiting a long time,” Nyong’o said. The Academy Award-winning actress plays Nakia, a Wakandan spy who aids T’Challa as he ascends to the throne. “I was so excited because this was a movie that we felt a lot of ownership of and that we thoroughly enjoyed making. When you make a movie like this, on this scale, so much happens between the time you perform it and the time you see it, you know, all the computer graphics and stuff – Wakanda was built in a room with Ryan [Coogler] and the incredible design team – to see it as I have seen it, it was something I was looking forward to.
In regards to representation, it is important to see and hear characters that an audience can relate to. While Boseman is an African American, the film and comics recognize that T’Challa came from an African nation. “As actors, this is separate from the movie, when you’re trained, you’re trained often from a European perspective,” Boseman said. “What is great and classical is considered British. I happen to come from a background that does not believe in it. I went to Oxford when I studied, but I [also] went to Howard. And we were taught to respect our writers and our classics, just as much, and believe that it takes the same skill level and same techniques, techniques that are a little bit different, to pull that off.”
Boseman then added:
“You have to tell the stories and be true to yourself as an artist. In this, there was a time period where people ask me questions about whether or not an audience could sit through a movie with a lead character who spoke with that accent. And it was not Kevin [Feige] by the way. It was people outside of Marvel. I became adamant about the fact that it is not true. The intonation and melodies inside an African accent are just as classical as a British one or a European one. And that all of the emotions and aspects of a character can be shown and expressed through that accent, and we have to take this opportunity to show that. If he had never been conquered, his ancestors had never been conquered, and he has never been conquered, and Wakanda is what it is, he doesn’t have to go to Oxford to study. He doesn’t have to go to Cambridge or Yale, or any place to study, he actually got his education at home and he would not then assimilate the conquerer’s language in order to speak to his people. So he had to speak with an African accent.
For Gurira, the way the film depicts her culture was important. “I think what was really fascinating and almost very emotional for me, being that I’m Zimbabwean and American, that’s something you always want,” Gurira said. “Not only do you see the power and potential of where you’re from, but you see how skewed it’s viewed by the world, and how misrepresented it is, and how distorted it’s received by the world so often.”
She said the film is a “salve to those wounds,” because we get to see a world that celebrates the “potential and power of all the different African culturalisms and aspects of our beings.”
“We see when we’re there, we see beauty, we see power, we see potential, we see ability, we see resources. But they’re never exhibited,” Gurira said. “And to put that on a Marvel epic scale of exhibition it really salves wounds in a really deep way.”
Black Panther opens in theaters on February 16, 2018.