The day after Black Panther’s world premiere in Los Angeles, the cast, director Ryan Coogler and Marvel Chief Kevin Feige took part in a press conference to discuss the movie.
King T’Challa himself, Chadwick Boseman, recalled the moment he first learned he was cast as the Black Panther. Coming off the red carpet for the premiere of Get On Up, the James Brown biopic, Boseman received an international call with the good news.
“It was crazy because I didn’t even have international calling until that morning!”
Feige himself recalls when the team settled on the casting decision during the pre-production phase of Civil War and immediately reached out to the actor to tell him about the character and their vision of him for the Marvel Cinematic Universe..
“I think you’ve heard people say this all the time when you’re in a setting like this, but he was the only choice.”
Director Ryan Coogler, who wasn’t involved with Boseman’s casting, called the gig an “incredible opportunity.” The youngest MCU director yet gushed about being “able to work with people [he] watched [his] whole life” like Forest Whitaker and Angela Basset. A self-described life-long fan of comics and pop culture, Coogler said the movie pulls from all the major runs on the character. In addition to the fact that certain characters in the movie were introduced over time by different writers, he said each writer brings something new to the world of Wakanda.
“Each run gives us something to pull from.”
Even though Black Panther is the biggest project Coogler has worked on, he said he had no problem pushing Marvel to keep the story grounded and personal.
“You think of Marvel as the biggest studio in the world, but it’s really just Kevin and his two friends,” Coogler said laughing.
For Danai Gurira, Black Panther provided her with an opportunity to present a strong, authentic image of her ancestral culture. Calling the movie “a salve to those wounds” caused by seeing Africa misrepresented or skewed on the big screen, Gurira praised the movie for how it “subverts things we’ve been seeing forever on the continent” and presents them in a strong, beautiful way.
“I was the first one to get my head shaved, and in theory it sounded amazing,” Gurira said laughing. “Then the pride started to grow and the pride around it and embracing this symbol of power in these women[…] You don’t have to have hair to be beautiful, this is beauty, right here.”
Gurira’s Okoye wasn’t the only new bad ass character though. New comer Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, was one of the best parts of Black Panther and was equally charismatic on the stage. When asked what her favorite gadget from the film was, she simply laughed and said she invented all of them before delving into her answer.
“T’Challa’s suit is quite beautiful but I think the gauntlets are pretty dope cuz that’s her personal little thing,” Wright revealed. “I’m like back up, yeah, Kitty Cat Paws!”
Black Panther may be the title character, but this movie is equally about the strong women and characters around King T’Challa. For Lupita Nyong’o, the film is special because of how it represents each of those women as a fully formed, independent individual.
“We all have our own sense of power and our own agency and we hold our own space without being pitted against each other,” Nyong’o said. “Sometimes in movies we fall into that trap where women, there’s very few of us, and then we’re against each other, there’s a competitive spirit and this film freezes that. We see women going about their business and supporting each other, and even arguing with each other, having different points of view, but still not being against each other and I think that’s extremely important.”
Discussing the film’s cultural relevance and connections to present political themes, Feige said Coogler wrote the script about a year and a half ago. While certain events have happened recently that make certain themes and aspects of the movie increasingly relevant, he insists “there are also things in the film that have been relevant for centuries.”
“The truth of the matter is Stan Lee and Jack Kirby […] created Black Panther and made him a smarter, more accomplished character than any of the other white characters in the mid-1960s. So if they had the guts to do that in the mid-1960s, the least we can do is live up to that and allow the story the way it needs to be told and not shy away from things that the Marvel founders didn’t shy away from in the height of the Civil Rights movement.”