The director Ryan Coogler and the cast mates Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira see personal and political potency in Marvel’s first black superhero film.
Talking about the movie, Lupita Nyong’o says “Marvel has a way of really affecting popular culture. Hopefully it changes the general idea of what being an African is. Too often times we see Africa as a place that is wanting, and here it’s a place that you want to go.”
“Black Panther” is the first major superhero movie with an African protagonist; the first to star a majority black cast; and in Ryan Coogler (“Creed,” “Fruitvale Station”), the first to employ a black writer and director.
See excerpts from the interview below.
Danai Gurira on the large black cast: What it does in such a beautiful way, to me, is it sets a precedent. We’ve read a lot of subtitles for German and Russian — we can read subtitles for African languages now. People can’t go back and say, “No, that’s going to be too hard, it’s Africa.” They can’t do that. And that is so thrilling to me.
Lupita Nyong’o on what the movie means to her: Seeing it yesterday, I’m even more excited about the celebration of pan-Africanism, because this movie is really about a contemporary Africa relating very intimately with a contemporary America via the characters of Black Panther and Killmonger. We’re talking about some really deep issues that we don’t often voice but we all feel.
Chadwick Boseman on being cast in the movie: A lot of times, being [a black man] in Hollywood, when you get material you’ll read it and you’ll be like, “That’s not us.” When I got the initial call from Kevin Feige, my hope was that they would have the courage to give Black Panther its true essence and put somebody behind it that would have my same passion for what it could be. And they did that.
Michael B. Jordan on his character: Ryan [and I] started getting into the back story of where he came from and how his upbringing really affected his personality, his outlook, his rage, his agenda. We felt like we could show where Erik is coming from and make people feel why he is so angry, why he is so lost. He doesn’t know who he is, but he knows the answers are out there.
Director Ryan Coogler on changing the narrative of Africa: The narrative about the continent that we know is actually a fairly recent narrative, if you think about human history. It’s a narrative that was born out of what happened when the countries of Africa were conquered. But the truth is that some of those places that people might refer to as backwaters — and these recent comments definitely aren’t the first time somebody has said something like that — were the cradle of civilization. They were the first places to do anything that we would consider to be civilized. All the structures that we built in Wakanda, they’re taller structures of what you’ll find in Africa. Some of them we switched up — instead of mud we used [the fictional supermetal] vibranium — but those are buildings that you’ll really find in Mali, in Ethiopia, in Nigeria. I spent about three weeks in Africa [doing research for “Black Panther”] and I truly felt that seeing it for myself was necessary for my growth as a human being. That experience made me not only capable [of writing] this film, but it made me whole as a person.