Today EW offered a ton of new information from their set visit to Black Panther. In addition to a bunch of great images, we also got to get a glimpse at the characterization of several different players and their role in the upcoming film. While the first question on many fans minds are the “villains” when a cast is announced, it is also important for a superhero to have the proper supporting cast. From the signs in the article, T’Challa will have plenty of help when it comes time to fight off Kilmonger and Klaue.
Coming into the film fans will know that T’Challa is suffering the loss of his father in Captain America: Civil War. Into that patriarch vacuum will step Forrest Whitaker‘s Zuri. Zuri will serve as a mentor to T’Challa particularly when it comes to spiritual things.
“He’s somewhat a religious figure or spiritual figure,” [Director Ryan] Coogler says of Zuri. “Spirituality is something that exists in Wakanda in the comics, and it’s something we wanted to have elements of in the film. Forest’s character, more than anything, is a major tie-back to T’Challa’s father. Zuri is someone he looks to for guidance.”
EW also connects Zuri to the mythology of the Panthers saying he’s the “keeper of the Heart-Shaped Herb, a plant that grows only in Wakanda and absorbs the Vibranium-rich minerals. When consumed, it gives the new leader superhuman strength.” In the past, Marvel has tended to make scientific a lot of mythical or magical elements. Even Doctor Strange connected MCU magic with quantum physics and MRIs. In that environment, the role of a fantastic herb in Black Panther’s origin story was a question in some fan’s minds. There was some fear that his powers would be largely situated in his suit, like an Iron Man-lite. These comments suggest that is not the case.
In addition to a father-figure, T’Challa will also have a brother of sorts in Daniel Kaluuya’s W’Kabi. He is described as T’Challa’s “best friend.” Executive Producer Nate Moore describes the character like this:
As T’Challa ascends to the throne, he asks W’Kabi to serve as an advisor, trusting his friend’s knowledge and instincts.
W’Kabi is the head of security for the Border Tribe. They live on the borders of Wakanda and serve as the first line of defense for the country…To outsiders they appear to be what people would ‘expect’ of a small provincial African nation – but the truth is they are some of the fiercest warriors in Wakanda, intent on protecting the secrets of their advanced nation at all costs.
How the challenges of foreign interests and local coup attempts squeeze T’Challa will be an interesting plot point in the film. It sounds like regardless of the challenges he has a loyal confidant who is helping to repel the enemy. With Kaluuya coming off a critically loved film in Get Out it is nice to see the great acting caliber across the board in this movie.
Agent Everett K. Ross, played by Martin Freeman, also apears in the film. Less of his character is revealed by EW, but a few things about the character come from Freeman, who calls him “completely, totally competent” with EW adding he will not be a “goofy sidekick.” Kevin Feige pointed out the mix and match nature of characters, when talking about Freeman and his old Lord of the Rings partner Andy Serkis.
Klaue is the first [Panther] villain appearing in 1966. Everett Ross showed up 10 or 12 years ago in the [Christopher] Priest run in Panther comics. It’s always fun to pick these characters and put them in together.
Personally this is a little sad news for me. I found the hijinks of Ross to be one of the more fun parts of that Priest run. Evertt Ross without the bumbles and sarcasm just sounds like another generic S.H.I.E.L.D. suit. Where Freeman takes the character will be one of the more interesting parts of the film for me.
What do you think of these characters? Does this movie feel like it is shaping up to be another great entry to the MCU? Share your thoughts in the comments below.