‘Black Panther’: Martin Freeman on Just What Everett Ross Is Doing in Wakanda

     January 29, 2018

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When it comes to Wakanda, Martin Freeman‘s Everett K. Ross is quite literally a man out of his element. That’s not just because Ross is one of the few non-Black characters in Black Panther, but because even though the well-traveled CIA authority figure is used to dealing with superheroes and political super-powers, he’s never quite encountered anything like T’Challa and his people in the isolated nation. While visiting the set of the Marvel movie about a year ago, our group of journalists learned just how Freeman envisioned Ross, a character he got to introduce in Captain America: Civil War and now gets to explore more in this follow-up film.

Normally you can just read through an interview to discover everything the talent in question had to say, but in the case of Freeman, it’s important for me to lay out some context. Freeman’s a funny guy, with a particularly wry sense of humor, something you probably picked up on if you’ve followed his career for any length of time. Keep his jokey nature in mind as you read and I think you’ll be as entertained as we were, and might even learn something about Everett Ross along the way.

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Image via Marvel Studios

So, let’s start by asking a bit about Everett Ross in the comics. He’s kind of a guy who’s perpetually in over his head in dealing with Black Panther and everything. Is that accurate to what you’ve been doing?

Martin Freeman: No, it’s not. [laughs] No. It’s not. It was my desire to not be … I think we’ve all seen the idea of the goofy White guy among cool Black people going, “What the hell?” I’ve seen that about four billion times today, so, I don’t really need to do that again. I had early conversations with Ryan about that. Both of us were very keen that that wouldn’t be the case in this, you know? He has moments of comedy, he has moments of levity and there was humor there, but that’s not his purpose.

How would you describe the direction you’re pushing him in?

Freeman: He is the coolest man in the room. [laughs] He has some authority. He’s good at his job. I think we’re going as realistic as you can be in a heightened universe. It would be slightly incredible for him not to be good at his job and not to be competent at this position that he’s at. He’s good at his job. He’s well-traveled. He’s well-versed in the ways of the world. Wakanda is gonna be a surprise to him. But, in terms of meeting diplomats, kings, that’s not particularly fazing to him. He meets superheroes. So I think some of his humor comes from exasperation rather than [being dumbfounded]. That’s not his function in this.

Would you say he’s an ally or a threat to Wakanda?

Freeman: That’s a good question. I think we, without ruining it for you, I think there’s enough ambiguity there for him to be either and both. I think the position that he’s in, like, he works for the CIA, he works for the world’s only superpower, so like, an undiscovered African country that has all these goodies in it could easily be, “Oh good, that’s payday.” Or that could be something that he wants to respect, I guess.

Building off of that and going through the scene we saw you guys filming today, what’s his thought process when he sees Klaw in a room like that? We know that T’Challa certainly has something else on his mind when he sees Klaw.

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Image via Marvel Studios

Freeman: Yeah, I mean I think Klaw is one of those people for Everett who, you know, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. He wants him definitely on his radar to do future business because he’d rather know where crazy guys like that are in the world than just let him go or have nothing to do with him.

That was the interesting thing about playing those things with Andy Serkis, because normally I think there’s something about, our Ross anyway, that is quite … he has a lot of status in any room he comes in, he assumes that status, I think. And he has no idea how to deal with Klaw, because Klaw is a lunatic, he’s insane. Normally it might be Ross, I think who’s a bit [cool], but actually he’s coming across someone who’s just completely off the map, as far as that’s concerned. So, for him there, it’s just, I just have to kind of contain this. I have to get what information I can, but I want to keep him on my yo-yo, you know? I want him coming back to me, as opposed to what T’Challa wants to do with him, [which] is something else because he sees him as a direct threat to his country and has been a direct to his country. Whereas for me, it’s interesting, because Klaw keeps me in touch with other bad guys in the world, so…

Do you feel like that has a similar sort of relationship to that scene you had with Zemo at the end of Civil War?

Freeman: Yeah, maybe so. I mean, I enjoyed both those scenes, but what I like about being on the receiving end of Klaw is that you are on the receiving end of it. Like, he’s going to do to you whatever he wants to do. There was no way that, I as Martin, or me as Ross, could top that. Then you would just have two insane fucking people going crazy and the scene wouldn’t contain it, but Andy is extremely good at that wrong-footing, keeping-you-guessing stuff. I think Ross doesn’t like … he’s a pretty powerful guy, he doesn’t like being wrong-footed in his own kitchen and that’s kind of what happened with Klaw.

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