The Talented Cast Comes Together
With a compelling storyline in place, the filmmakers looked towards filling
the ranks of
the cast to surround Chadwick Boseman's title character. Coogler and Feige would
eventually gather an enviable ensemble of pedigreed cast, culling from the ranks
theater and television artists from around the world.
Feige comments, "It's great to be able to delve into the world of Wakanda,
Panther's lineage and heritage and meet these amazing, rich characters that
him. To bring them to life, we put together a phenomenal cast. They are among
that we've ever assembled."
Prince T'Challa is primed to become the new King of Wakanda. Mourning the
loss of his
father, T'Challa's claim to the throne is waylaid when villains outside the
him out of Wakanda and lead him on an adventure that spans the globe. Pushed to
limit and burdened with the fate of a nation, T'Challa must prevail by any means
necessary or risk the lives of millions of Wakandans.
Although he was familiar with the Super Hero, the Black Panther comics really
Chadwick Boseman's radar with Reginald Hudlin's iteration, which was first
2005. So when presented with the opportunity to bring the title character to
life as part
of "Captain America: Civil War," it was a thrill for the actor.
The subsequent positive audience response to the newest Super Hero in the MCU
arsenal was swift, and the feedback excited Boseman, who was eager to show film
audiences more of Black Panther's story. Boseman says, "There was certainly been
of excitement about the opportunity to do a stand-alone movie based upon the way
character was set up in 'Civil War.' I feel like that was a success, and we left
wanting more. I felt that excitement from outside, from people who saw the last
and I definitely felt like there was an excitement within Marvel too."
Boseman offers what he finds compelling about his character. "T'Challa is
smart. He's a
strategist and that has always been something that stood out to me, even in the
books," the actor says. "He's a world leader and with that comes the
an entire nation and considering its place in the world. That's something that
Super Heroes don't commonly have, but he must also uphold his legacy. It's an
For Boseman, a committed actor always looking for a substantive role, the
to explore the duality of a conflicted ruler and Super Hero was an irresistible
combination in a role. He offers, "There's a lot of real world conflict that you
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
you can really act and where you can do something that's going to make you a
artist as well. And I think, culturally speaking, that there are not a lot of
play a black Super Hero. It's breaking new ground, and to be a part of that is a
With an opportunity to show more about what makes Black Panther tick,
Coogler and Boseman had discussions about how the character could evolve in the
movie. "We tried to build on what was already there," says Boseman. "You have
opportunity in this film to be more detailed than you were in the last one
because in the
other story Black Panther was a supporting character. In this he has to show a
different colors. We talked about what those colors were, and what were those
different aspects of the character that we wanted to show."
Even as Boseman jumped into the fray on "Civil War," the Marvel team knew
found their king. Recalls executive producer Nate Moore, "From the beginning we
that Black Panther needed to feel singular. Whoever we cast had to be somebody
was going to bring integrity to the role that felt different in tone to what a
Downey Jr. brings to Tony Stark, to what Chris Evans brings to Captain America,
with what Chris Hemsworth brings to Thor."
He adds, "Chadwick is so prepared as an actor that he read all the comic
books, and he
came to us with a list of questions and had his own ideas about Wakanda. You
very quickly this guy is not taking anything for granted and is fully invested
in the role."
MICHAEL B. JORDAN
Erik Killmonger is a new foe to Wakanda with designs on the throne. Equipped
deadly tactical skills and knowledge of Wakanda, he is a formidable enemy for
The creative bond between Michael B. Jordan and Coogler runs deep and is
from their previous collaborations in "Creed" and "Fruitvale Station" and
beyond a working relationship. So when the director proposed the idea of Jordan
a different acting muscle and consider taking on the role of Killmonger, a
unconventional turn for the actor, Jordan agreed without hesitation.
Jordan had already been mentally in the game from the second he heard Marvel
was developing the "Black Panther" project. A longtime comic book fan, Jordan
not turn down the chance to work on the film. "My initial exposure to the Marvel
universe was pretty extensive," comments Jordan. "I grew up with Marvel and
books and was always a big fan."
He continues, "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
whole life, so it's pretty amazing to get to be part of the story for the big
Very little is known about Michael B. Jordan's character, Erik Killmonger,
introduced into the narrative but slowly fragments of his connection to Wakanda
revealed to T'Challa. Killmonger is a mercenary who is just as lethal as Ulysses
with the pair now united against T'Challa, the stakes have grown exponentially.
"Killmonger is a threat to T'Challa because he truly understands Wakanda,"
Coogler. "That's really somebody who could be the biggest threat. If you know
enemy, then you're in pretty good shape. It makes you very formidable. It's a
what society has come to, which is information. And when it comes to
those who have it and those who don't. And above all else, that's what
Coogler and the filmmakers knew that Jordan would prove to be a strong foil
Boseman. As a new foe to Wakanda, Killmonger's designs on the throne would set
immediate and inherent tension in motion between the two men which sets the
for the emotional crux of "Black Panther."
States Nate Moore, "Killmonger thinks he's a good guy, which is the best kind
A villain who actually believes in what they're doing. Michael has much more of
outward charisma, which always helps with an antagonist but even when he's
there's still a likeability there, there's still a charisma that he brings to
the table, which is
Describing Killmonger, Jordan says, "He is always ten steps ahead. He's very
That's a very dangerous attribute to have as a villain because he's going to sit
and he's going to plan and calculate every move. I like to think of myself as a
thinker, and I love playing chess and seeing steps ahead. So that was something
definitely connected a lot with him."
Jordan sums up, "I'm very proud to be a part of this project. Joe Robert Cole
did a really good job at laying down the foundation of Wakanda for the first
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
things. I loved the way they tied in the old-school tradition with what today is
important foreign policy and how we interact with one another is."
Nakia is a War Dog, a Wakandan spy often imbedded in countries outside of
to observe and report back. She must decide whether she should be guided by her
to her nation or her feelings for T'Challa.
Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong'o was drawn to "Black Panther" by several
different elements. "I had been wanting to work with Ryan Coogler, who I think
brilliant," says Nyong'o, "in addition to wanting be a part of the MCU. And then
that this was going to be Marvel's first black Super Hero, and that he is an
and the fact that we were going to be creating this really dope African country,
populate it with all sorts of badass African characters-it was a no-brainer,
Nakia, who is from the River tribe, is a force to be reckoned with-a highly
and strong-willed woman who gives as good as she gets, especially when it comes
T'Challa. Her warrior skills match those of the Dora Milaje, the elite
force, which makes her an exceptionally effective operative.
Describing Nakia, Nyong'o says, "Nakia is a bit of a rebel but also a
loyalist to her
country. She is in conflict with some of the ideals of her nation and wants to
go her own
way, but she is also really eager to serve the country she loves so much. She
T'Challa, now that he is King, are at odds as to what way forward is best for
But they also have some history together, so they have to come to terms with
figure out how to forge ahead."
Nyong'o states that she could identify with Nakia's free spirit and her
love a woman who goes her own way and is independent, and I am also really
who depends on my family and friends and feels a connection to my people, and
has a sense of responsibility to 'make them proud.' So I really related to that
act within oneself," comments the actor.
In the film, Nakia has an interesting relationship with Okoye, the head of
Milaje, the all-female security force. "Okoye and Nakia have a sisterhood but
that is challenged because Nakia doesn't do so well with authority figures,"
Nyong'o. "And Okoye also doesn't do so well with rebels. So, Okoye represents
guard and tradition. She's really eager to keep tradition alive, while Nakia
tradition. They have a deep respect for each other, but they just see the world
Calling the cast "a godsend," Nyong'o elaborates: "I can honestly say that I
working with everyone who was in this film. We had legends like Angela Bassett
Forest Whitaker and then newer faces like Daniel Kaluuya and Letitia Wright.
came together with the same level of enthusiasm and passion to bring this story
to life. I
feel like we all really owned this story and wanted to do right by it. There was
militancy with which we showed up every day to put in our work."
Okoye is the head of the Dora Milaje, the all-female Wakandan Special Forces.
She is the
best fighter in Wakanda who is not named the Black Panther, and she is fiercely
Best known for her immensely popular role of the katana-wielding Michonne in
AMC series "The Walking Dead," actress Danai Gurira was a no-brainer when it
filling the role of the fearless Okoye, T'Challa's confidante and head of the
But beyond the action-driven aspects of the character, Gurira was drawn to
complexities within dynamic circumstances. She is a true leader who believes in
need to uphold the traditions and ultimately the security of Wakanda in the face
Offering her take on Okoye, Gurira says, "Okoye is the head of the Dora
women have pledged their lives to the throne and to the maintenance of the
the kingdom and specifically of the throne. But my character, Okoye, is also the
of the armed forces as a whole and the head of Wakandan Intelligence.
"So she's more than a bodyguard. She's got a much more expansive role than
she's deeply involved with all the workings of what's going on in the kingdom.
knows everything. She reports to T'Challa. She makes decisions. She's very well
for her abilities as a soldier and as a leader. She has her own complexities
going on as
well. And all of that's been very cool to play," concludes Gurira.
Describing her relationship to T'Challa/Black Panther, Gurira says, "Her
T'Challa is very close. They're good friends. They've grown up around each
was definitely a young girl who stood out from a young age from the Border tribe
was being brought through the ranks and close by him. And so she's known him for
long time. She's all up in his business, basically, so they have a great
Born in the U.S. but raised in Zimbabwe, Gurira is also an award-winning
known for compelling exploration of African characters and their stories. "As a
playwright, I write about African stories and try to tell them in the Western
says Gurira, "so to see African characters showcased in an epic platform like
Panther' in itself is exciting, but listening to Ryan's vision was amazing. His
with Joe Robert Cole] really brought to light the beautiful components of women
Africa within the context of the power of this prosperous, self-sufficient
kingdom that is not affected by all outside influences. This beautiful mythic
developed its own way, designed its own modernity and evolved into the most
technologically advanced country on the planet. To me, that was so thrilling."
Everett K. Ross, A CIA agent who was last seen interrogating Zemo, Ross soon
finds that he's on the trail
of the same villain recently resurfaced from T'Challa's past. Ross is pulled
wondrous world of Wakanda and finds himself aligned with T'Challa against
international forces threatening to destroy Wakanda.
Martin Freeman reprises the character of Agent Everett Ross in a surprising
turn as an
ally, albeit a reluctant one, to T'Challa. "There's real sense of nobility to
Moore of Ross' dÃ©tente with T'Challa. "There's a mutual respect between Ross and
T'Challa as they reluctantly team up to pursue Klaue. Ross isn't the requisite
government suit who acts as the obstructionist."
Freeman was pleased to join the cast of "Black Panther," and says, "From my
view, obviously I knew Ross, my character, was going to have more to do. I think
an interesting character, and the slight difference between what was on the page
Ross in the comics and what we're doing here is interesting. It's going to be a
straighter, I suppose, if not darker."
Freeman admits that he likes his character, commenting, "I like his
authority. I like his
status, actually. I like the fact that he doesn't care about offending people. I
doesn't care about where his jurisdiction is because his jurisdiction is
everywhere as far
as he's concerned. So I like that; giving yourself license just to go and act
like the most
powerful person in the room."
W'Kabi is the head of security for the Border Tribe. The people of the Border
Tribe live on
the borders of Wakanda and serve as the first line of defense for the country.
outsiders they appear to be what people would "expect" of a small African
the truth is they are some of the fiercest warriors in Wakanda, intent on
secrets of their nation at all costs.
British actor Daniel Kaluuya joins the cast as W'Kabi, Royal Counsel to
T'Challa when he
ascends to rule Wakanda. Offering insight on W'Kabi, Kaluuya says, "W'Kabi is
honest African character. He's got an African male ego. I find that quite
really honest. It's like seeing what that does to a man when he's been brought
up in this
certain tradition that is quite sexist in a way and seeing whether he can
overcome it. And anyone can."
Continuing, he adds, "Also, the fact that his arguments are very valid open
it up. He's
given the alternative argument to Black Panther, but he's coming from a very
a place that has logic. It was really exciting to be a vessel for that. It was
Shuri is T'Challa's little sister and a smart-mouthed, tech wizard. She is
the throne behind her brother and is the smartest person in Wakanda-the top
and the innovator behind the Black Panther's updated suits and technology.
British actress Letitia Wright steps into the shoes of tech-savvy Princess
cheeky younger sister. Describing Shuri, Wright says, "Shuri is someone who's
innovative. She takes care of the technology side of everything that's going on
Wakanda. She designs exciting, cool things that we're going to see in the film.
is always working, and she's always thinking of solutions to help her country
building gadgets and things like better armor. Shuri's mission in the film is
and improving Wakanda, helping her brother and being a positive part of the
While tech may be in Shuri's wheelhouse, she shows her prowess on the
well. It was that arc and the promise of working with Coogler and the assembled
well-known and talented actors that sparked a strong interest from the
actress. Like all of her co-stars, Wright loved the idea of an African Super
Hero and knew
that the project would be something fresher and more different from anything she
done or seen before.
M'Baku is the formidable leader of the Jabari tribe, a group of Wakandans who
shunned the use of vibranium and removed themselves from mainstream Wakandan
In the wake of T'Chaka's death, M'Baku is faced with the choice of challenging
for the throne in order to return Wakanda to its isolationist ways.
Winston Duke portrays M'Baku, leader of the Jabari mountain tribe of Wakanda
doesn't see eye-to-eye with T'Challa and the royal family. "M'Baku is a
man of deep integrity," offers Duke. "He really cares about his people, and he's
shaped and defined by his cultural identity. He is Jabari, which is one of the
of Wakanda. And being so is a really big part of who he is. He has a particular
wanting his world to reflect where he comes from. He does not want that to be
forgotten, and he's a man of deep integrity. However it's manifested, it's still
He adds, "Working with Ryan helped me to get to another level of
character. M'Baku's a man who has a great level of need of doing service for his
He's serving something bigger than himself. He has to make sure that the Jabari
and their ways and their culture survive. He wants them to remember who they are
that they created this entire remarkable civilization on their own. He feels it
is time to
remind them that they can't move forward without a clear, deep, thoughtful
to the past, which is a really powerful thing."
Ramonda is T'Challa and Shuri's mother. Her goal is to help T'Challa become
Wakanda in a peaceful transition of power, serving as a de facto advisor to the
However, as things get complicated for our hero, she sets aside any political
and instead operates as a mother whose sole concern is the physical well-being
of her children.
Academy Award nominee Angela Bassett plays the stalwart Queen Mother Ramonda,
T'Challa's mother. The recent widow is a pivotal character that provides an
both T'Challa, who is struggling with his role as leader of Wakanda and
protector of its
traditions, and his sister, the headstrong, brilliant young Princess Shuri.
Of her role, Bassett says, "Ramonda's a wife, and she's a mother of a son of
whom she is
immensely proud of, and of a young daughter Shuri. You have that back and forth
between Shuri and Ramonda sometimes as she's trying to assert her independence
as she's growing into her humanity and her adulthood. As a mother of a boy and a
know that there are just different dynamics and tensions that play out between
and girls and mothers and sons and mothers and daughters."
The role of mother comes easily to the veteran actress and mother of two but
unexpectedly found herself becoming the Queen Mother to the cast who often
to her off camera as such. And she embraced it all with fulfilling results both
and off. "Letitia Wright and I formed a very beautiful bond," relates Bassett.
"She is a
lovely young woman who is full of fieriness, sass, humor and openness. I had a
wonderful experience with her and just drew her close to me. We talked and
from each other."
Continuing, she adds, "Chadwick is such a talent. From the beginning there
camaraderie and a great deal of respect for his previous work, so when I look at
with proud eyes, they were as a proud mother, Ramonda, and also as his proud
Bassett's young co-stars, particularly Wright, appreciated the maternal
dynamics at play
as much as she did. "Angela is amazing," enthuses Wright. "I actually had to
moment before we started filming to thank her. She did a movie, 'Akeelah and the
which inspired me to want to act. She's amazing and she's funny. She's given me
much advice and reassures me when she sees I'm frustrated. Her advice is
would not exchange for anything. I'm honored to have worked with her."
Working with Ryan Coogler was a first for Bassett and proved to be a positive
experience. "Ryan is very collaborative and allows you to bring to it what you
says Bassett. "What I loved about him is that he always asked us to ground our
characters in reality-in our bodies, in our emotions, in our feelings-as opposed
thinking about them as comic book characters. He wanted us to explore who these
people were and how they felt about each other and what they wanted."
Zuri is the spiritual leader of Wakanda. A good friend to former King T'Chaka,
become a mentor figure to T'Challa, bestowing his knowledge and wisdom onto the
Black Panther. Zuri is also the keeper of the Staff of Bashenga, and tends the
the Heart-Shaped Herb that gives Black Panther his powers.
For Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, joining the "Black Panther" cast
was akin to a family reunion with Coogler and Jordan with whom he collaborated
producer on "Fruitvale Station."
Whitaker brings his considerable acting
skills to the part of Zuri, the shaman of
Wakanda and longtime Royal advisor to
King T'Chaka, making Zuri's long and
complicated history with the royal
family real and relatable.
Ulysses Klaue is an illegal arms dealer, smuggler and gangster operating out
Africa, whom we met in "Avengers: Age of Ultron." He is after Wakanda's
in the Black Panther's crosshairs.
Andy Serkis was always game to revisit the role of the South African arms
first appeared in "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and once he heard Coogler was set to
he signed on despite an overwhelming schedule.
It was worth it for the award-winning actor, who says, "Ryan has really come
something special with 'Black Panther.' It's an extraordinary retelling of
everything that we know about Black Panther from the comic while creating
a wondrous yet accessible way. He's a brilliant director who's all about
knows this world so well. He's created something that is really smart, really
very pertinent. It's truly a film for our times."
Klaue is a unique character who possesses a dark unstable sensibility that
British actor to jump in and enjoy the ride. The black-market arms dealing
smuggler/gangster is still obsessed with Wakanda and its vibranium mine and
his alliance with Killmonger he continues to work his own agenda.
"We do really honor the character of Ulysses Klaue and his brutal history
Wakanda," says Serkis. "I wanted him to retain that anger and if there is any
factor about Ulysses Klaue it is that he wants to expose their hypocrisy. Ryan
wanted this interpretation to be fresh and show that Klaue now lives for the
and enjoys his new weapon and his new life. There's a lot of humor in the way
and I have worked on the character together."
Rounding out the cast are German actress Florence Kasumba who plays Ayo, the
Milaje who first appeared in "Captain America: Civil War"; South African
actor/playwright John Kani ("Captain America: Civil War," "Coriolanus") who
play T'Challa's father King T'Chaka; and Emmy Award-winning actor Sterling K.
("This Is Us," "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot") appearing as N'Jobu, a Wakandan War Dog.
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