Nate Moore has been a producer on Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War, but his biggest project to date is also the biggest milestone for the MCU: Black Panther. His excitement was palpable during our visit to the set with a group of journalists last year, and fans’ anticipation for the Marvel movie has risen to match it. And with good reason.
Moore was happy to answer all sorts of questions about Black Panther, from its origins in the pages of Marvel comics and which writers and artists inspired the film’s look, to the incredible cast and the bigger-than-life characters they’ll play on the screen, to the timely social context of the film and how it will both honor the character’s legacy and feel like a contemporary story, without being too on-the-nose about anything politically. The story of Black Panther, as Moore described it, was one part James Bond and one part The Godfather, with the expected amount of Marvel action in the mix thanks to writer/director Ryan Coogler‘s dynamic adaptation and understanding of the material. There’s a lot to dig into here, so let’s get to it!
Where does this story begin? Can you tell us that?
Nate Moore: It begins where Civil War left off, right? So obviously that movie had a big impact on T’Challa because of T’Chaka’s death. So now we answer the question, What happens when he goes home? Who rules Wakanda? How does Wakanda now deal with the loss of a king who was a fair king, who people seemed to like? And is T’Challa ready to be the king of Wakanda?
Branching off that, the thing that’s really interesting about Black Panther is the fact he, obviously, being royalty, he has a certain dedication to Wakanda, but being a world leader, he also has a responsibility to the rest of the world. How is that being balanced within this film?
Moore: I think that’s the big question, Can you be a leader for a country and still be a hero? And still look out for the interests of the world when really you have a constituency that has a very specific agenda. In our world, Wakanda is a place where the rest of the world doesn’t know how advanced they are. So he’s trying to keep this veil of secrecy in this nation to keep them protected but morally, he understands that he could be doing more for the world and that’s the tension we play with.
Obviously the mantle of King and the mantle of Black Panther are things that are passed down in Wakanda. How much is that going to be explored in the film as far as the Panthers that have come before him?
Moore: It’s definitely a big piece of the movie and we wanted to explore how succession works in Wakanda. Again, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, what was clear in Civil War and what we actually think was clear was that you could be king without being Panther and vice versa. So we always imagined T’Chaka was King but T’Challa already was Black Panther.
So what happens now when the Black Panther is next in line to be King? And are people going to be okay with him taking the mantle? Or is there going to be any resistance to that? It’s a big plot point in the movie. All of Wakanda is not monolithic. Everybody doesn’t agree about everything. Everybody doesn’t like the same people. So while some people may love the idea of T’Challa taking the mantle of king, other people may object to it and what happens then? How do you keep this country unified?
Can you talk about Killmonger’s role? Is there a power play for him trying to take the mantle or that sort of thing?
Moore: Yeah, I think for Killmonger it’s… Again, the interesting comparison we’ve been making, and this is going to sound crazy, but we’ve always thought of Black Panther as a James Bond kind of movie, right? Sort of this big globe-trotting epic.
But in talking with Ryan Coogler, the director, one of the ideas he also liked was this sort of Godfather-kind of story. When I say Godfather, it’s the idea that it’s very much a story about family and a story about an organization where new leadership is taking place. And much like the Godfather, you have to fight for things, right? And they’re all vying for power and in this case, it’s power over Wakanda. I think Killmonger sees Wakanda as something that could be used differently than it currently is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and that puts him directly at odds with T’Challa.