Black Panther is about to set the world aflame when it opens in theaters this week. Perhaps Marvel’s most anticipated film to date (and the pre-sale tickets broke the record for all previous Marvel films), it’s also, in my opinion, one of the Top 3 Marvel films and it’s director and cast have EVERYTHING to do with that.
A few weeks ago, select press were invited to the film’s press conference in Los Angeles where we got a chance to talk to the talent on creating Wakanda, the beauty of the fierceness of the women, and more. Check out what they had to say:
Kevin Feige on casting Chadwick Boseman “he was the only choice”
I think you hear people say this all the time, when you’re in a setting like this, but he was the only choice. It may not have been this fast, but in my memory, we were sitting around a table, coming up with the story for Civil War, Nate Moore, our executive producer, suggested bringing in Black Panther because we were looking for a third party who wouldn’t necessarily side with Cap or side with Iron Man. And almost instantly, we all said Chadwick. In my memory, although maybe it was the next day, we got him on a speaker phone right then, and he was in the back of a limo in Switzerland.
Chadwick Boseman on the significance of T’Challa having an African accent
As an actor, when you’re trained, you’re very often trained from a European perspective. What is considered great or classical is very often British, and it’s certain writers. I went to Oxford to study, but I also went to Howard, and we were taught to respect our writers and our classics, just as much. You have to tell the stories that allow you to be true to yourself, as an artist. There was a time period where people were asking me questions about whether or not an audience could sit through a movie with a lead character who spoke with that accent, but that was not Kevin. So, I became adamant about the fact that that is not true. The intonations and melodies inside an African accent are just as classical as a British one or a European one, and all of the emotions and aspects of a character can be shown through that accent. We have to take this opportunity to show that. If he had never been conquered, if his ancestors had never been conquered, and if 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. He actually got his education at home, so he would not then assimilate a language that is the colonizer’s language, in order to speak to his people. He had to speak with an African accent.
Ryan Coogler on balancing big budget blockbuster with meaning “best versions of those stories do both things”
I grew up loving comic books and pop culture. I loved toys, actions figures, video games, and all of that stuff. When I got older and realized that I wanted to make movies, that’s how I fell in love with internationalism and cinema that left you with something to chew on and think about. I think the best versions of those stories do both things. So, for me, I sat down with Marvel, after speaking with (executive producer) Nate [Moore] over the phone, and I was very honest with Kevin. You think of Marvel like this big, huge studio. It’s the biggest studio in the world right now, but it’s really just Kevin and his two friends. That’s really all it is. It’s these two really smart people that he writes with – Louis D’Esposito and Victoria Alonso – and on this film, it was Nate. They’re all very different from each other, and Kevin is at the head of that. I told him, “I want to make a film that works on every level that your films work on, and I want to make it with these themes.” And he was like, “Great! Let’s go!” I didn’t expect that. But as I got to know these guys, especially specifically Kevin, that’s what he’s all about. He’s all about making something that entertains people and that works, as a piece of entertainment that leaves you with something to think about. He was very encouraging. I was getting notes, while we were working on this, that were about making it more interesting and pushing it.
Angela Bassett on the African ideology of equality
In African culture, they feel as if there is no king without a queen. This story highlights the queen, the warrior, the general, the young sister.
Lupita Nyong’o on representing women as individuals, and sending a “very powerful message” to children
What I love about the way this film represents women is that each and every one of us is an individual. We’re unique and we all have our own sense of power and agency. We hold our own space without being pitted against each other, and I think that’s a very, very powerful message to send to children, both male and female. Oftentimes, in movies, we fall into that trap where there’s very few women, and we are against each other. There’s a competitive spirit, and this film freezes all that. We see women going about their business and supporting each other, even arguing with each other and having different points of view, but still not being against each other. I think that’s extremely important. In this film, there are so many of us. We really get a sense of the fabric of Wakanda, as a nation. We see women alongside men, and we see how much more effective a society can be, if they allow women to explore their full potential.
Danai Gurira on bringing a powerful, and regal character to life, “I get to be in it?!”
When Ryan sat me down and talked to me about his vision, and the story, the characters and the women, I was just floored because you don’t actually get to hear that often. You don’t actually get sat down and hear that type of a vision. And it embodied us being women on the continent, but very developed and very complex. It was amazing. I was like, “I just want to watch this. I get to be in it?!” And then, I got to see it come to life, with these astounding women that I started training with. I was the first one to get my head shaved. In theory, it sounded amazing. And then, the day came and I was like, “That’s today?!” I had a ‘fro, and then it happened. I’d go into the restroom to wash my hands, look up and go, “What the?!” It took a few days, and then all the girls started coming in. We were all balded, one by one, and then the pride started to grow. It was about embracing the symbol of power in these women and the beauty of that moment. I loved that moment where she doesn’t want a wig. She doesn’t want to cover up. This is her joy and her pride, walking in with that bald head and that tattoo on it. It’s so subversive, in the right way. You don’t have to have hair to be beautiful. There are so many great things I could say about how Ryan developed these women characters and allowed us to collaborate. I just feel really blessed and excited about it.
Letitia Wright on the equality presented in Wakanda, “no one is undermined by men”
What I love about it is that the men are always behind the women. No one is undermined by the men being like, “You shouldn’t be in technology. You shouldn’t be in math.” They’re like, “No, go ahead.” T’Challa is like, “Go ahead, sis. This is your department. This is your domain. Kill it. I’m gonna work with you to finalize it.” That’s the mentality of the king, and that’s brilliant. Everybody’s got their own lane. She’s cooler than him, but not smarter than him.
Black Panther opens February 16th.