Black Panther Set Visit Interview: Michael B. Jordan

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Black Panther Set Visit Interview: Michael B. Jordan
Posted by Jacqueline Coley

January 24, 2018

Nearly a year ago, a number of journalists, including Blackfilm.com, traveled down to Atlanta to visit the set of one of the highly anticipated film of 2018, and of Marvel’s comic book films. This is of course, the standalone film for Black Panther starring Chadwick Boseman.

Fans have been eagerly awaiting this film since the character first made his appearance in Captain America: Civil War. Ryan Coogler (“Creed,” “Fruitvale Station”) is directing from a screenplay he co-wrote with Joe Robert Cole. Marvel has done great job loading this film with star studded names and newcomers who we will come to know. Besides Boseman, we have Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Florence Kasumba, Shaunette Renée Wilson, Isaach de Bankolé, John Kani, and Sterling K. Brown.

As most of these folks have participated in some highly anticipated projects – everything from Star Wars, The Hobbit, and Marvels own Avengers movie – they didn’t let too much slip. But we did learn a lot about the world of Black Panther and the type of film they are producing.

On set, we watched a scene between Everett K. Ross, T’Challa, and the Dora Milaje, and after piecing our set visit with clips from the trailer we can confirm that scene, in particular, was taking place in South Korea – one of the principal locations. In the scene, Klaue/ Klaw is being held in an interrogation room. Ross it seem to not fully understand the World of Wakanda, but he knows that they have been keeping things from him.

Here’s what Michael B. Jordan had to say on his character Kilomonger.

A lot of the roles that you’ve played in the past have been characterized as being the underdogs, or even if they’re not fully in that mode, they’re just guys you really root for, and this is obviously on the opposite end of that. What was it like getting to switch into that type of character?

Michael B. Jordan: Let me see … (laughs) I think it was a different muscle. For me, I wanted to kind of step outside of a comfort zone, and try something different, especially with Ryan, working with him again. I’d jump at the chance to get a chance to work with him again. And I think one of the challenges for us, if we do our job the right way, is hopefully, Killmonger is somebody you guys can root for too. I think that’s something hard to accomplish, but if we all do what we’re supposed to do, I think that would be a really hard decision to make, to figure out who you want to root for. And I think it brings out the best in villains.

Well, based on that, what does Killmonger want? (laughs)

Michael B. Jordan: I don’t know.

Why don’t you just tell us all that you can say?

Michael B. Jordan: I think Killmonger wants … Man, he has interest in Wakanda. As the rest of the world, something that they don’t really know that much about and wants to find out more? (laughs) I’m sorry. It’s tough.

The fact that you’re on the other side of things compared to most of the cast is tough, isn’t it?

Michael B. Jordan: Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, yeah.

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER
Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya)
Credit: Matt Kennedy/©Marvel Studios 2018

You’ve got this big group of Wakandans, and they’ve got you as one of the antagonists. Is there an isolation to that? How does that work as far as developing your relationships with the cast versus the characters’ development there?

Michael B. Jordan: It’s interesting, because I’m not really associated with any of the Wakandans. I guess I’m the best representation of America? So when it comes to getting to know the characters off set, I’m kind of late in the game. This is the first project between me and Ryan where I wasn’t there from the very beginning, so coming into the middle of the shooting and not really being there from pre-production and getting a chance to spend a lot of time with the cast actually works in my favor. Because there really isn’t any real connection there on screen in the script, so I think that separation helps me out a lot. But it’s one of those things we tell everybody before we start like, “I love you, we love you.”

“I love you too, but on this one I’m not really gonna be smiling too much.” People, they know me by now; I’m pretty warm and approachable, but on this one I’ve taken a slightly different approach and staying to myself.

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER
L to R: Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), b/g W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya)
Credit: Matt Kennedy/©Marvel Studios 2018

One thing that people really responded to with the Creed was Ryan’s style of filming the boxing scenes …

Michael B. Jordan: Yep.

And with very fluid movement, so can you speak to how he’s approaching action in this movie?

Michael B. Jordan: As realistic as he can. I think one of Ryan’s strengths is that he always finds the real moments, even in a sci-fi or a larger-than-life kind of atmosphere and environment, so when it comes to boxing, he wanted real hits! He wanted it to look like if it was a brawl, it was gonna be a brawl. We really took our time with each punch, each punch represented a different line. So, in a sense, we’re having a scene and dialog within the fight. So that was something that I found very interesting and very attention to detail. So for this one, a different approach, ’cause using a lot of weapons, and they’re also using a lot of hand-to-hand combat, so there’s a lot more action, so to speak. So, just trying to find the realness in the larger-than-life Marvel universe, I think that’s something that he’s definitely striving for.

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER
Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan)
Credit: Matt Kennedy/©Marvel Studios 2018

Kinda piggyback off of that, Killmonger, he’s an expert fighter, and you’re no stranger to intense physical training with Creed. So, can you compare your experience with training in Creed to your training with this character now?

Michael B. Jordan: I think when I trained for Creed, I had about a year in advance to know what I was doing before. I lived like a fighter. I went through the workout routine, the diet, training with real boxers, training with real trainers, did the whole thing, which helped me out a little bit in the process of getting ready for this one. Discipline, same type of approach; instead of just using my arms and my hands in boxing, this one is more martial arts, using a lot of your legs. So I’m picking up different fighting styles, and also a lot of guns too. The weapons training is a totally different muscle. So being able to train in L.A. for a couple months before coming down here,- And I like to do as much as I can myself. I respect stunt guys and what they do, of course, if I’m jumping out of five-story buildings, you got it! (laughs) Anything on the ground that I feel like I can do, I really like to be able to do that stuff myself, to be able to give the director options for long takes and not being able to cut away. So as much as I can learn,- I just wanted to be a sponge, so he would drop me off at weapons training, martial arts training, or let’s pick back up on boxing, and just try to combine it all.

Marvel Studios BLACK PANTHER
Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan)
Credit: Kwaku Alston/©Marvel Studios 2018

Often times, opponents are studying each other; chess game. So, what you say that Killmonger is studying and learning from Black Panther to up his game and to take over?

Michael B. Jordan: That was a good one. (laughs) I feel like it’s more like resentment. I feel like it’s more of a jealousy aspect. It’s always interesting to train for an enemy you never met before, so it’s a lot of studying from afar. And I feel like he’s very patient, he’s a thinker, he’s really good at chess. He was waiting for his perfect time to pop up.

Was it easy for you to get in his head, and get behind his motivations? Did you understand him right away?

Michael B. Jordan: One hundred percent. One hundred percent, without a doubt. And I think that’s the part of it that hopefully a lot of people, when they see the film, they’re able to connect with. The same part that I connected with. Without going into detail, because I can’t,- (laughs) Yeah, I could, there’s two sides to every coin. And true villains, I think the really good ones, the interesting ones, the ones that truly believe what they’re doing is the right thing. And if you can somehow blur that line to the people who were supposed to not like them, or wouldn’t really- “Maybe I’m not supposed to be on board with this-” If you can get them to see that other point of view, I think that battle’s won.

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER
Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan)
Credit: Matt Kennedy/©Marvel Studios 2018

You said you were brought in later in the game on this, so can you talk about what those initial discussions were, and was there any hesitation at all to do another comic book movie?

Michael B. Jordan: Zero hesitation to do another comic book movie. I guess I got brought in later in the game just because that was the natural process, that me and Ryan still talk every day, in an unofficial capacity always been a part of it. No hesitation, really, to do another comic book film. I’m a geek. I love this world. I love being able to play in that fantastic space. I looked at it as another shot to get it right, to do it again, especially with teaming up with Rachel again, and Ryan, it’s a very, very comfortable space for me. And it was the perfect space for me to take another risk like this. Yeah, it was no hesitation on that part.

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER
L to R: Okoye (Danai Gurira), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Ayo (Florence Kasumba)
Credit: Matt Kennedy/©Marvel Studios 2018

Can you talk a little about the female characters and Killmonger’s interaction with them? Because you got Angela’s, Lupita’s, Danai’s, and Letitia now. Can you talk to how he’s going to interact with those ladies?

Michael B. Jordan: He doesn’t really get a chance to have elaborate interactions with a lot of female characters.

Just from the events of Age of Ultron and Civil War, we do know that there is going to be elements of his story that change from the comics. I’m curious just how much of the history- Because, in the comics, his history with Wakanda and T’Challa goes back to when he was a kid and being kicked out of the country. Are we going to get the scope of history, and where he’s been?

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER
L to R: Shuri (Letitia Wright), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman)
Credit: Matt Kennedy/©Marvel Studios 2018

Michael B. Jordan: That’s a great question. I wish I could answer that. (laughs) That’s a great question.

Any there any characteristics or traits of your character that you think you personally possess?

Michael B. Jordan: Yeah, I think, being strategic. Thinking before you act, thinking before you speak, being really thought-out. Five or six steps ahead. Very passionate about what he believes in. I feel like he always has a plan; I think that’s something that I can pull from my own personal- I always feel like I had a plan for something. So, yeah, I think that’s something that we have in common.

Going back to the female characters a second, but hopefully where you can answer a little more, one of the really cool things that you’ve noted about your collaborations with Ryan, also even in your work in Friday Night Lights or Parenthood, is that the women tend to be so much more than just these clichéd strong women characters. Even if they are physically strong in doing this, they are really complex people. I’m curious in this, especially with Lupita’s character, was that something you noted going in, that even though she’s obviously a warrior?

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER
Ayo (Florence Kasumba)
Credit: Matt Kennedy/©Marvel Studios 2018

Michael B. Jordan: Yeah, yeah. I feel like Ryan’s portrayal of women,- he’s always very conscious of that, and want to be as realistic as possible. A reflection of the time, of today. And I feel like Lupita’s character definitely exuberates strength and brains and brawn. And, yeah, I think you get a chance to see all layers of a woman, all different sides, all different shapes and colors. I feel like you’re getting a full 360 view of what a woman could do, very, very much so- capable. I think that answers the question.

Andy Serkis told us that Klaw’s motivations are unabashedly selfish. He’s there for himself. Is that similar for Killmonger, without saying what your specific motivations are, what the general feel of them are? Is it a selfish thing, or is it for something bigger?

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER
L to R: T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan)
Credit: Matt Kennedy/©Marvel Studios 2018

Michael B. Jordan: I feel like Killmonger is very selfless. I feel like he’s looking at the bigger picture. I think he’s always looked at the bigger picture, since he was really young. Which is why he’s a great thinker, and a great strategist, because he’s had time to look at the big picture and try to figure it out. And, to the best of his ability, I feel like he figured out- it makes sense to him.

How does he consider himself? What does he feel? If he had to describe himself, is he a leader, is he a hero?

Michael B. Jordan: Can I give a one-word answer? Can I ask if it’s cool before I say it? (laughs) He’s a revolutionary. (laughs)


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