Marvel’s Black Panther character made its first appearance in Fantastic Four Vol. 1 Issue 52, published in 1966. It introduced fans to a regal African King and his Super Hero alter ego.
Now Marvel Studios, along with Disney, presents the movie Black Panther. It spotlights T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) who, after his father’s death, returns home to the isolated, technically advance African nation of Wakanda. He expects to take his rightful place as King. But he is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Even his throne is challenged by an American named Erik Killmonger (Michael B Jordan).
The movie, which premieres on February 16th 2018, is written by Joe Robert Cole and Ryan Coogler, and directed by Ryan Coogler (Creed).
Chadwick Boseman and Michael B Jordan came to the press day in Beverly Hills, to talk about the film.
When you got the call to play Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, did you know the character was going to have his own movie?
Chadwick Boseman: The initial phone call from (producer) Kevin Feige (and the other producers) was one where they essentially said, ‘We want to bring your character into the Marvel Comic Universe – as a stand-alone, but this is the best way to introduce him in Civil War.’ So I was aware of it.
I think when I was shooting Civil War, I was not aware that other people weren’t aware that this was going to happen, because it was at the forefront of my mind. But, at the same time, I love the fact that it’s a surprise to people.
There has certainly been a lot of excitement about the opportunity to do a stand-alone movie based upon the way the character was set up in Civil War. I feel like that was a success, and we left people wanting more. I felt that excitement from outside, from people who saw the last movie, and I definitely felt like there was an excitement within Marvel too.
What do you find compelling about your character?
Chadwick: T’Challa is smart. He’s a strategist and that has always been something that stood out to me, even in the comic books. He’s a world leader and with that comes the responsibility for an entire nation and considering its place in the world. That’s something that other Super Heroes don’t commonly have, but he must also uphold his legacy. It’s an interesting combination.
There’s a lot of real world conflict that you can bring to it. So you don’t feel like you’re just playing a guy in a suit. You’re playing a conflicted, well-rounded character. If you’re going to do a Super Hero, you want to do one where you can really act and where you can do something that’s going to make you a better artist as well. And I think, culturally speaking, that there are not a lot of opportunities to play a black Super Hero.
Michael, you were a comic book fan, what was it like to be approached about being in the movie?
Michael B Jordan: My initial exposure to the Marvel universe was pretty extensive. I grew up with Marvel and comic books and was always a big fan.
I was very familiar with Black Panther. As a kid I always wanted to be the Black Panther. Black Panther was a character that I always looked up to and admired my whole life, so it’s pretty amazing to get to be part of the story for the big screen.
How would you describe your character, Erik Killmonger?
Michael: He is always ten steps ahead. He’s very patient. That’s a very dangerous attribute to have as a villain because he’s going to sit and wait, and he’s going to plan and calculate every move. I like to think of myself as a forward thinker, and I love playing chess and seeing steps ahead. So that was something that I definitely connected a lot with him.
Did Wakanda turn out like you thought it would look in your mind’s eye?
Michael: They gave (us) a chance to look at some of the concept art pretty earlier on. (But) nothing could have prepared us for what we saw. We got a little glimpse of it, but to actually see it on screen fully rendered, the completed project was incredible, mind blowing and was really cool to look at.
(Screenwriter) Joe Robert Cole and Ryan did a really good job at laying down the foundation of Wakanda for the first time. It’s the introduction to the world and giving the voice to the people. The culture of Wakanda is very old. There is history and traditions and how they’re used to doing things. I loved the way they tied in the old-school tradition with what today is and how important foreign policy and how we interact with one another is.
Chadwick: And the idea of the next generation being smarter, being better than you.
You see the genius that is inside the people that come after you. And if you have an ancestor around, they’re looking at you like, ‘I know you’re looking up to me, but we’re looking up to you.’ That is an African concept.
This movie celebrates feeling good about who you are, family and culture.
Michael: I definitely agree. Last night was the first time I saw the film. I called Ryan the day of, and I was like, ‘Man, I’m anxious; I’m nervous. I don’t know what to expect.’ And he said, ‘Look, man, just look at it and try to be a fan. Just watch it, and try to enjoy it.’ In the back of my head I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s never gonna happen, but I’m gonna try.’
When I sat down with the audience, I had that same type of reaction. It was like, ‘Man, this is what it feels like.’ I couldn’t describe that feeling before actually sitting down and watching that film. I’m very proud to be a part of this project.