SDCC 2017 Exclusive: A conversation with Black Panther’s Cooler, Boseman, Nyong’o, Wright and Duke

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SDCC 2017: A conversation with Black Panther’s Coogler, Boseman, Nyong’o, Wright and Duke
Posted by Cat Combs

July 24, 2017

Black Panther is the first Marvel ECU film with a black lead, a predominantly black cast, and black director, and I couldn’t be more excited. This is a long-awaited moment for black men and women alike. I don’t know why it took so long for the industry to realize what a recipe for success looks like, but alas, our time has come.

Ryan Coogler (“Creed,” “Fruitvale Station”) is directing from a screenplay he co-wrote with Joe Robert Cole.

The cast includes Chadwick BosemanMichael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’oDanai GuriraMartin FreemanSterling K. Brown, Daniel KaluuyaAngela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy SerkisLetitia WrightWinston Duke, Florence KasumbaShaunette Renée Wilson, Isaach de Bankolé, and John Kani.

SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 22: (Back row L – R) Actor Andy Serkis, director Ryan Coogler, actors Forest Whitaker, Michael B. Jordan, Winston Duke, Daniel Kaluuya, (front row L – R) Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, Chadwick Boseman and Letitia Wright from Marvel Studios’ ‘Black Panther’ at the San Diego Comic-Con International 2017 Marvel Studios Panel in Hall H on July 22, 2017 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney) *** Local Caption *** Andy Serkis; Ryan Coogler; Forest Whitaker; Michael B. Jordan; Winston Duke; Daniel Kaluuya; Danai Gurira; Lupita Nyong’o; Chadwick Boseman; Letitia Wright

“T’Challa’s homeland is the site of massive natural deposits of Vibranium, the near-mystical metal that comprises Captain America’s shield, is woven into his Black Panther, and has allowed the people of Wakanda to make technological leaps nearly a century ahead of the rest of the world. But as T’Challa learns upon ascending the throne, the minute others know you have something valuable, someone will try to take it from you. In self-defense, Wakanda has closed itself off from the other nations of Earth, maintaining a false front that it’s a mere third-world nowhere – full of mines, farms, and jungle creatures. The truth is, its mines produce the rarest, most precious metal on earth, its fields grows the Heart-Shaped Herb, a Vibranium-enriched plant that grants its leaders superhuman strength, and its jungle creatures provide inspiration for one of the sleekest superheroes to ever leap from the page to the screen.”

Chadwick Boseman stars as the title hero while Michael B. Jordan plays Erik Killmonger. Lupita Nyong’o is Nakia (a former member of Wakanda’s Dora Milaje, now an agent of Killmonger), and Danai Gurira as Okoye (a member of the Dora Milaje, the all-female security for the King of Wakanda). Winston Duke has the role of the villain M’Baku, aka Man-Ape. Andy Serkis will reprise his role as Ulysses Claw from Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER
Forest Whitaker as Zuri, Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi, Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger, Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther/T’Challa, Angela Bassett as Ramonda, Danai Gurira as Okoye, and Letitia Wright as Shuri photographed exclusively for Entertainment Weekly by Kwaku Alston on March 18, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Kwaku Alston © 2017 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2017 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

Whitaker will play the role of Zuri, an elder stateman in Wakanda. Kasumba will reprise her “Captain America: Civil War” role as Ayo, a member of the Dora Milaje. Kaluuya will play T’Challa confidant W’Kabi while Brown will play N’Jobu, a figure from T’Challa’s past. Letitia Wright plays Shuri. spoke with cast members of the upcoming Marvel film, Black Panther, after their Hall H presentation this weekend at San Diego Comic-Con. Among those cast members were Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa/Black Panther), Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia), Winston Duke (M’Baku), and Letitia Wright (Shuri). We also spoke with Director Ryan Coogler (Creed, Fruitvale Station). Already you could see the passion and excitement these storytellers had for this unprecedented venture. Check it out:

So, thank you for bringing us Black Panther.

Ryan Coogler: Not yet, we still working on it. (LOL)

We’re very excited, I feel like it’s already here. 

Ryan Coogler: Right on. I appreciate that.

So, what about Black Panther made you say, this is the one, this is the debut I want to see on screen for a black superhero?

Ryan Coogler: It wasn’t about that part of it, as much as, you know, it felt right for me creatively at the time. I met with Marvel and those guys and those women at Marvel, you know what I mean, and everything about it felt right. For me partially, I wasn’t really thinking about what it could mean culturally when taking the job, you know what I’m saying. But it was really more about how I felt internally. Now obviously, all that stuff is out there, but it’s a character that spoke to me when I was young and was reading comic books, and as I got older I became even more interested in it. And at the current time, right now, I think it’s a character that’s very important to the cultural Geist. You’re seeing a renewed interest in it, even in the comic world with Ta-Nehisi working on his stories now. So, I mean, I think all of that was what really put a lot into it.

It’s exciting to have a black Marvel superhero, but it’s even more exciting to have him with a primarily black cast. Can you talk about how it feels to be a part of this moment and the doors it may open for future black superhero films?

Chadwick Boseman: Oh, you know I’m excited about the film, probably just like anybody else because I have never seen anything like it before either. So, it’s just amazing to be a part of something, and be able to step outside of it because you also feel the gap there. You feel the need. So, it’s beautiful and I feel like there’s definitely going to be other attempts to make things that also have this impact. And all that can only be good, you know. There are other black superheroes that have not had their own movie as well. So, the trend of Hollywood is that if something works, that you’ll see more of it. So, hopefully, there’s more so that could happen.

Winston Duke: Any film doing well, opens the door for other films doing well and the inclusion and representation of people who aren’t seen as much in the mainstream. So, this will just be a really fun inclusion to the conversation. And we’re happy to do that. We put a lot of work into making this film, and a lot of passion, and art, and soul.

Black Panther seems to have a lot of support around him in the film. How did you use that to develop T’Challa as a character and Black Panther, and the difference between his alter ego and the hero? 

Chadwick Boseman: Well I don’t think there’s an alter ego, you know. It’s not like, Hulk. [Bruce] Banner and Hulk. Yeah, there’s no alter ego. It’s just, an extension of who he is. But in terms of the support, you know he’s a king. There are certain things, certain people should help you do, but it’s not even just about that. He’s also a servant to the people, you know. He’s not the only Black Panther. There have been Black Panthers throughout his lineage, and he’s pulling from that history to decide, make decisions, to decide how he’s going to protect his country, how he’s going to be king. So, all that’s part of it. He can’t do that by himself. There has to be other people that work with him.

What brought you to this role in Black Panther? What did you want to bring forth in your character?

Winston Duke: Well, for my character, after the reading the script, it meant a lot to me to portray a man that cares about his people, that was deeply faithful in that he cared about things that were more than himself. I really think M’Baku is a person who sees himself as doing a great service you know, and if you’re doing a great service, it’s not about you or your ego per say, you know. So, I really wanted to make him a man of integrity. So those are things that I attached to quickly and wanted to bring across.

On to the ladies.

Female characters in Marvel movies are usually strong, powerful, and independent. Is that what brought you to this role. Or what brought you to this role?

Lupita Nyong’o: Yeah, I’m interested in playing characters that have agency, and sometimes that means that they aren’t necessarily physically strong, but they are strong with character, and that doesn’t mean that there’s an absence of vulnerability. And for me, that’s really important. I don’t know any woman that’s only strong. And so, there’s that nuance and the 3-dimensionality when I’m interested in playing a character, and when Ryan talked to me about Nakia, she was those things. She’s a woman with a mission and she was there to serve King and country. But, she also had an opinion of her own and she had something to bring to the table and that’s what I was interested in.

Letitia Wright: Yes, that was a big reason as well. The way she was written, you know, even on the sides that were like, with a different name, you know. I got a sense of that character from even the sides from the very beginning, and the character description, of how you know, the break down comes through, and it tells you who this character is. So, yeah like, just someone who was intelligent, someone who was not like a stereotype. Just a refreshing thing to see on a movie screen, you know, a young teenager who is a scientist and into technology, just killin’ it. So yeah, that drew me into the part.

Was there a particular characteristic of your character that you wanted to shine more than others?

Letitia Wright: Oh man, just how free she is in her self-expression. Like, you can’t put Shuri in a box, you know. If you tried to, you’d get really disappointed because she just pops out with different things all the time. So, a characteristic, I would just say, like just her being just fun, just a positive energy, a positive spirit. I tried to channel that through everything I did.

And did you see a part of yourself in this character?

Letitia Wright: Yeah, like you know, we had rehearsals and stuff, so I started to see myself become her a bit more you know. And especially her positive side. That side to her that never gives up, you know, or never takes failure in a hard way. She just gets back up and just keeps going. So that’s a part of Shuri that I love.

San Diego Comic-Con gave us all the feels we needed to be more than proud and amazed for all the epic moments going to take place on screen. Although we have some time to wait, because Black Panther doesn’t come out until February 16, 2018, the excitement is here and will continue.

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