Over the weekend, Marvel made a big splash at San Diego Comic Con, revealing huge bits of goodies concerning both their Television and Studio departments. However, one of the biggest bits of news out of the con was announcement of multiple Black Panther casting additions: Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, and Danai Gurira. To some, the casting confirmations for Black Panther may not appear as important as say the information that was revealed concerning Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, or even the casting of Captain Marvel herself, Brie Larson, however, there’s no denying Black Panther will play a huge part in Marvel Studio’s future and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general. After all, this is a character that not only has a rich comics history, but is such an important figure to many fans.
When Black Panther hits movie theaters in February 2018, it’ll be the first Marvel Studios film led by a person of color, something fans have been eager to see for some time now. Even more important? It’ll be the first cast made up of a cast that’s primarily people of color. That’s huge in Hollywood, especially when it comes to super hero movies. Needless to say, this film is a big deal for various reasons. With that said, T’Challa himself, Chadwick Boseman, made his way to SDCC this past weekend to help announce the supporting cast of the film, and also do a surprise signing for fans. During his time there, he got a chance to meet with some of his fans and talked about how excited he was to see people dressed up as Black Panther. It was at SDCC that the actor truly understood just how important this character was for fans.
io9: When did it first hit you how much this character meant to the fans?
Chadwick Boseman: Yesterday! Obviously, I know how important it is, particularly for people of African descent. In terms of seeing everybody’s response to it, all types of people have responded to me since Civil War came out. I’ll go certain places and they’ll come up to me and talk about the movie. But this is the first place where I’ve seen them all together—black people, Asian people, Latino people, middle-aged people, young people, old people… It’s something to see all in one spot. So, I’d definitely say yesterday was the first time it just hit me.
Compared to his fellow Avengers, the Black Panther is a truly unique character with a fascinating background. It’s a character with a rich political background, one that we already know to expect going into the film, so how does Boseman go about getting into the proper head-space when playing T’Challa?
Boseman: There are a lot of different things to pull from. You can look to all these different civilizations that existed in Africa. The Egyptians. The Mali, who are believed to have been a satellite nation of ancient Kemet. The Zulu. You can go so many different places. It could be Ethiopia, which went a long time without being conquered as well. So, just pulling from all those things and finding an attachment and a pride to them and then being very specific and doing my own DNA test and finding where I come from, what my ancestry is. Once you have the role, people want to give you things. People will reach out and say “hey, I want to train you” or “hey, I want you to meet this babalao who wants to read you.” I’m being approached with all types of things that have been helpful to the process.
Of course, with a character like Black Panther, it’d be easy to fall into stereotypes. So how do Marvel Studios and director Ryan Coogler keep the character from becoming more than a stereotypical character? According to Boseman, it’s by giving the character his own purpose – his own vital arc.
He’s a king so he doesn’t necessarily have to take feedback at all so that’s a good observation. What do you think prevents T’Challa from being a Magical Negro in Civil War? Part of the formula is there: he’s an otherworldly character who could be fixing these white folks’ problems [Boseman laughs].
Boseman: Well, he’s there for his own purpose. He’s not there… usually what happens is “well, he did this in this scene and now he’s doing [something else contradictory] and that doesn’t even fit the character.” That’s the Magical Negro thing. But, I think we were very cognizant about making a character that had his own through-line, his own intent and he wasn’t going to waver for anybody else’s story. Anytime that I felt like that was about to happen, I’d be like ‘nah, this is what he wants. You can do whatever you wanna do but this is what I feel like he needs to be doing.’ I feel like that’s the key. Sometimes… I won’t say more than that. I could go into the Magical Negro and talk about that forever but…. [laughs loudly]
I’m not gonna stop you!
Boseman: Nah, I think the main thing is just keeping it very clear that he has his own arc and his own things that he wants and desires. He only changes that when something strikes a chord at his core. It strikes a chord at what I think is his lineage and heritage and what he’s been taught, at what he’s been groomed to be. He can’t make that shift at the end of the movie unless he’s been groomed to make that shift already. And even though we don’t see that grooming, that’s actually the first glimpse into Wakanda before you see that tag at the very end.
Although the movie doesn’t begin filming until January, thanks to Nyong’o and Coogler, we know a bit as to what we can expect from the film. As pre-production continues to move along, we can expect more casting announcements to begin coming out, whether it be via the trades or through Marvel. Black Panther is slated to hit movie theaters on February February 2nd, 2018.