You know his name. He’s T’Challa, Black Panther, King of Wakanda … he also goes by Chadwick Boseman. Though the versatile actor made his introduction in this particular role in Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, he’ll get to come into his own as the title character in Black Panther. That fact plays to Boseman’s advantage since he won’t have to carry both an origin story and an ascension story as T’Challa attempts to defend Wakanda from internal and external threats, but a large part of the film’s success does lay on his shoulders. Luckily, writer-director Ryan Coogler has assembled a stellar cast of veterans and newcomers to support Boseman with both allies and enemies from the pages of Marvel Comics.
So, too, does T’Challa have allies and enemies aplenty in Black Panther, and they’ll help to progress the narrative centered around the title character. As part of a group of journalists visiting the movie’s set just about a year ago, we spoke with Boseman about T’Challa’s state of mind at the beginning of the film and how his decisions from the previous movie will play out in his solo outing. Boseman also spoke about the more behind-the-scenes aspects of making Black Panther, like how he handled the fandom, his physical training for the role, and joining the Marvel universe.
So does T’Challa feel more like a king or more like Black Panther?
Chadwick Boseman: At the beginning of this movie? I think neither. Neither. He’s been Black Panther before, but I would say at the beginning of this movie he’s dealing with – it’s shortly after Civil War has ended so he’s still mourning. There’s unrest in Wakanda. So what he’s dealing with his being the king, making the transition to filling the footsteps of his father. So it’s probably going to feel like it’s more about the political unrest than the superhero, initially.
What’s the learning curve from going from being Black Panther, or just being Wakanda royalty, to becoming the king?
Boseman: He’s been prepared for it his whole life. He’s groomed, so to speak, to do it. I think it’s just the mental transition. Like if his father had decided that he was going to step down, “I’m too old, I can’t do it anymore then,” that would be a different scenario. But because he died in the last movie, I think the transition has to do with that mourning process, [but] he’s been groomed to do it.
Is approaching this role different than working on Captain America: Civil War? I’m curious if there is a deeper understanding that you’re getting out of the character versus when you were first preparing originally?
Boseman: I mean yeah, obviously. Not to say that there wasn’t a deep understanding, but some of the things that we came to an understanding of, we couldn’t show in the last one, so it gives it a chance to marinate. And those certain things that we were unsure about, now we’re 100 percent sure about, even down to accent and how you walk or what his sense of humor is, which actually develops more in this movie because in the last movie, he was pretty focused on what he had to do, so there was no time to make any jokes. [laughs] But in this one, you’re sort of seeing him around in his more natural environment and around people that he knows, so you are different according to the people you are around.
What’s the fallout for T’Challa, both personally and from the rest of Wakanda, for not taking vengeance? Because it was obviously a very conscious decision, it was a major decision for him to not take vengeance there in Civil War for his father.
Boseman: The fallout?
Yeah. What can you say about it, both internally for T’Challa and then just kind of how other people are viewing that?
Boseman: Fallout is a really strong word, but maybe that’s because it’s me. You don’t want to criticize yourself. But anytime a leader dies, to be general and not give away story, there’s going to be political unrest. And the fact that it’s not unlike our world where you will have one political party sort of, not to be specific about that, one political party sort of point the finger at someone for being soft or not being tough enough when it comes to their foreign policy or that type of thing. So that would be the best way to describe it. But is it complete unrest where he can’t overcome it? I wouldn’t go that far.
For him internally, do you feel that T’Challa is comfortable with the choice he made in Civil War?
Boseman: Yes. I think he is comfortable with the final choice, that final choice. Yes.