In Ryan Coogler’s breakdown of the Black Panther trailer with EW, the director mentions that while it is united in its struggle against the rest of the world, “Wakanda is divided within itself.” As the film begins you be sure that T’Challa’s quick ascension to the throne and decision to reveal himself to the world in his quest for vengeance didn’t go over well with everyone. Though T’Challa was next in line for the throne, the comics suggest that the title of Black Panther isn’t always so straightforward and it’s a good bet that Coogler’s comments indicate that there could be many people, including the mighty M’Baku, who don’t want T’Challa in that throne.
While native son Killmonger and enemy of the state Ulysses Klaue will be working to infiltrate Wakanda from the outside, it’s possible that they could have some help from an inside man. We know Black Panther is set to be a geopolitical thriller and the latest synopsis suggests that treachery is among the many threats faced by the new king. We’re wondering if we haven’t seen the face of treachery in the trailer and furthermore if he might not be a new spin on an old enemy from the comics.
The screencap below is taken from the scene in the trailer where Killmonger is brought before T’Challa and the Wakandan tribal elders. This council, know in the comics as the Taifa Ngao, the “Shield of the Nation”, has always served the Black Panther in an advisory role as they come together to determine the best course of action for their country.
In the overview of the throne room, we see all of the actor and in a different bit of the trailer, our focus is drawn to one, explained by EW as follows:
The camera lingers on one especially compelling presence among the tribal rulers. Coogler says the man with the emerald suit and lip plate is “the elder of one of the largest tribes in Wakanda.” He’s played by actor Isaach De Bankolé, known for brutalizing Daniel Craig’s 007 in Casino Royale. Across from him sits T’Challa’s widowed mother, Ramonda (played by Angela Bassett)…
The man is later referred to as the “river tribe leader” when he is seen in the background while T’Challa and Killmonger battle at Warrior Falls.
We have no inside info here, but given the trailer seemed to set up the film’s antagonists, we wouldn’t be surprised to find out if this tribal elder is among those within Wakanda’s borders working against his new king. If that’s the case, we think we might have a guess at the identity of the character played by De Bankole:
You’re looking at Achebe, one of T’Challa’s most formidable foes and one who brought the king down without every laying a finger on him. Achebe was the man responsible for sowing the seeds of one of the more complex plots ever hatched against Wakanda. He began an ethnic war in a neighboring country, causing a mass exodus of refugees into the normally closed border of Wakanda. As the country turned on T’Challa, he stayed calm and ultimately defused the plot.
This Achebe would clearly be a different take and work to tear down Wakanda from within in a different way, but it would hardly be the first time a character had been changed but kept true to his nature. The lip plate certainly gives De Bankole’s character a distinct look, that although different from the maniacal grin associated with Achebe, still provides for a similar effect. We are in no way claiming to know that De Bankole is playing Achebe, simply offering up some thoughtful speculation about how Coogler could have cleverly co-opted the character for the film.
What do you think? Could De Bankole be Achebe? Could he be S’Yan, the brother of T’Challa? Could he just be a helpful member of the Taifa Ngao? Maybe we’ll know more in November!
Black Panther will hit theaters February 16, 2018.