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BLACK PANTHER

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 of film, theater and television artists from around the world.

Feige comments, "It's great to be able to delve into the world of Wakanda, see Black Panther's lineage and heritage and meet these amazing, rich characters that surround him. To bring them to life, we put together a phenomenal cast. They are among the best that we've ever assembled."

CHADWICK BOSEMAN

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 country pull him out of Wakanda and lead him on an adventure that spans the globe. Pushed to the 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 came on Chadwick Boseman's radar with Reginald Hudlin's iteration, which was first published in 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 a lot of excitement about the opportunity to do a stand-alone movie based upon the way the character was set up in 'Civil War.' I feel like that was a success, and we left people with wanting more. I felt that excitement from outside, from people who saw the last movie, 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 comic books," the actor says. "He's a world leader and with that comes the responsibility for an entire nation and considering its place in the world. That's something that other Super Heroes don't commonly have, but he must also uphold his legacy. It's an interesting combination."

For Boseman, a committed actor always looking for a substantive role, the opportunity 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 can bring 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 where you can really act and where you can do something that's going to make you a better artist as well. And I think, culturally speaking, that there are not a lot of opportunities to play a black Super Hero. It's breaking new ground, and to be a part of that is a special thing."

With an opportunity to show more about what makes Black Panther tick, director Ryan Coogler and Boseman had discussions about how the character could evolve in the new movie. "We tried to build on what was already there," says Boseman. "You have the 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 lot of 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 they had found their king. Recalls executive producer Nate Moore, "From the beginning we knew that Black Panther needed to feel singular. Whoever we cast had to be somebody who was going to bring integrity to the role that felt different in tone to what a Robert Downey Jr. brings to Tony Stark, to what Chris Evans brings to Captain America, even 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 realize 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 with deadly tactical skills and knowledge of Wakanda, he is a formidable enemy for our heroes.

The creative bond between Michael B. Jordan and Coogler runs deep and is evident from their previous collaborations in "Creed" and "Fruitvale Station" and extends far beyond a working relationship. So when the director proposed the idea of Jordan flexing a different acting muscle and consider taking on the role of Killmonger, a darker more unconventional turn for the actor, Jordan agreed without hesitation.

Jordan had already been mentally in the game from the second he heard Marvel Studios was developing the "Black Panther" project. A longtime comic book fan, Jordan could 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 comic 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 admired my whole life, so it's pretty amazing to get to be part of the story for the big screen."

Very little is known about Michael B. Jordan's character, Erik Killmonger, when he's introduced into the narrative but slowly fragments of his connection to Wakanda are revealed to T'Challa. Killmonger is a mercenary who is just as lethal as Ulysses Klaue, so 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," explains Coogler. "That's really somebody who could be the biggest threat. If you know your enemy, then you're in pretty good shape. It makes you very formidable. It's a film about what society has come to, which is information. And when it comes to information, it's those who have it and those who don't. And above all else, that's what Killmonger has."

Coogler and the filmmakers knew that Jordan would prove to be a strong foil to Boseman. As a new foe to Wakanda, Killmonger's designs on the throne would set an immediate and inherent tension in motion between the two men which sets the stage for the emotional crux of "Black Panther."

States Nate Moore, "Killmonger thinks he's a good guy, which is the best kind of villain. A villain who actually believes in what they're doing. Michael has much more of an outward charisma, which always helps with an antagonist but even when he's intense there's still a likeability there, there's still a charisma that he brings to the table, which is really interesting."

Describing Killmonger, Jordan says, "He is always ten steps ahead. He's very patient. That's a very dangerous attribute to have as a villain because he's going to sit and wait, and he's going to plan and calculate every move. I like to think of myself as a forward thinker, and I love playing chess and seeing steps ahead. So that was something that I definitely connected a lot with him."

Jordan sums up, "I'm very proud to be a part of this project. Joe Robert Cole and Ryan did a really good job at laying down the foundation of Wakanda for the first time. It's 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 doing things. I loved the way they tied in the old-school tradition with what today is and how important foreign policy and how we interact with one another is."

LUPITA NYONG'O

Nakia is a War Dog, a Wakandan spy often imbedded in countries outside of Wakanda to observe and report back. She must decide whether she should be guided by her duty 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 is brilliant," says Nyong'o, "in addition to wanting be a part of the MCU. And then the fact that this was going to be Marvel's first black Super Hero, and that he is an African king, and the fact that we were going to be creating this really dope African country, and populate it with all sorts of badass African characters-it was a no-brainer, honestly."

Nakia, who is from the River tribe, is a force to be reckoned with-a highly disciplined and strong-willed woman who gives as good as she gets, especially when it comes to T'Challa. Her warrior skills match those of the Dora Milaje, the elite all-female security 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 and T'Challa, now that he is King, are at odds as to what way forward is best for the nation. But they also have some history together, so they have to come to terms with that and figure out how to forge ahead."

Nyong'o states that she could identify with Nakia's free spirit and her independence. "I love a woman who goes her own way and is independent, and I am also really someone who depends on my family and friends and feels a connection to my people, and maybe has a sense of responsibility to 'make them proud.' So I really related to that balancing act within oneself," comments the actor.

In the film, Nakia has an interesting relationship with Okoye, the head of the Dora Milaje, the all-female security force. "Okoye and Nakia have a sisterhood but also one that is challenged because Nakia doesn't do so well with authority figures," explains Nyong'o. "And Okoye also doesn't do so well with rebels. So, Okoye represents the old guard and tradition. She's really eager to keep tradition alive, while Nakia challenges tradition. They have a deep respect for each other, but they just see the world differently."

Calling the cast "a godsend," Nyong'o elaborates: "I can honestly say that I loved working with everyone who was in this film. We had legends like Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker and then newer faces like Daniel Kaluuya and Letitia Wright. Everyone 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 like a militancy with which we showed up every day to put in our work."

DANAI GURIRA

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 loyal to the throne.

Best known for her immensely popular role of the katana-wielding Michonne in the hit AMC series "The Walking Dead," actress Danai Gurira was a no-brainer when it came to filling the role of the fearless Okoye, T'Challa's confidante and head of the Dora Milaje.

But beyond the action-driven aspects of the character, Gurira was drawn to Okoye's complexities within dynamic circumstances. She is a true leader who believes in the need to uphold the traditions and ultimately the security of Wakanda in the face of powerful enemies.

Offering her take on Okoye, Gurira says, "Okoye is the head of the Dora Milaje. These women have pledged their lives to the throne and to the maintenance of the security of the kingdom and specifically of the throne. But my character, Okoye, is also the general 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 that, and she's deeply involved with all the workings of what's going on in the kingdom. She knows everything. She reports to T'Challa. She makes decisions. She's very well known 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 connection to T'Challa is very close. They're good friends. They've grown up around each other. She was definitely a young girl who stood out from a young age from the Border tribe and was being brought through the ranks and close by him. And so she's known him for a long time. She's all up in his business, basically, so they have a great relationship."

Born in the U.S. but raised in Zimbabwe, Gurira is also an award-winning playwright 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 context," says Gurira, "so to see African characters showcased in an epic platform like 'Black Panther' in itself is exciting, but listening to Ryan's vision was amazing. His script [along with Joe Robert Cole] really brought to light the beautiful components of women from Africa within the context of the power of this prosperous, self-sufficient unseen kingdom that is not affected by all outside influences. This beautiful mythic place that 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."

MARTIN FREEMAN

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 into the 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 him," cites Moore of Ross' détente 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 point of view, obviously I knew Ross, my character, was going to have more to do. I think Ross is an interesting character, and the slight difference between what was on the page with Ross in the comics and what we're doing here is interesting. It's going to be a little bit 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 think he 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."

DANIEL KALUUYA

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. To outsiders they appear to be what people would "expect" of a small African nation-but the truth is they are some of the fiercest warriors in Wakanda, intent on protecting the 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 quite an honest African character. He's got an African male ego. I find that quite interesting and 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 develop and 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 real place, a place that has logic. It was really exciting to be a vessel for that. It was quite cool."

LETITIA WRIGHT

Shuri is T'Challa's little sister and a smart-mouthed, tech wizard. She is second-in-line for the throne behind her brother and is the smartest person in Wakanda-the top scientist and the innovator behind the Black Panther's updated suits and technology.

British actress Letitia Wright steps into the shoes of tech-savvy Princess Shuri, T'Challa's cheeky younger sister. Describing Shuri, Wright says, "Shuri is someone who's very innovative. She takes care of the technology side of everything that's going on in Wakanda. She designs exciting, cool things that we're going to see in the film. Her brain is always working, and she's always thinking of solutions to help her country and building gadgets and things like better armor. Shuri's mission in the film is expanding and improving Wakanda, helping her brother and being a positive part of the story."

While tech may be in Shuri's wheelhouse, she shows her prowess on the battlefield as well. It was that arc and the promise of working with Coogler and the assembled cast of well-known and talented actors that sparked a strong interest from the 23-year-old 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 has done or seen before.

WINSTON DUKE

M'Baku is the formidable leader of the Jabari tribe, a group of Wakandans who have shunned the use of vibranium and removed themselves from mainstream Wakandan life. In the wake of T'Chaka's death, M'Baku is faced with the choice of challenging T'Challa 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 who doesn't see eye-to-eye with T'Challa and the royal family. "M'Baku is a self-professed man of deep integrity," offers Duke. "He really cares about his people, and he's deeply shaped and defined by his cultural identity. He is Jabari, which is one of the main tribes of Wakanda. And being so is a really big part of who he is. He has a particular way of 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 connected to integrity."

He adds, "Working with Ryan helped me to get to another level of understanding the character. M'Baku's a man who has a great level of need of doing service for his people. He's serving something bigger than himself. He has to make sure that the Jabari survive and their ways and their culture survive. He wants them to remember who they are and 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 adherence to the past, which is a really powerful thing."

ANGELA BASSETT

Ramonda is T'Challa and Shuri's mother. Her goal is to help T'Challa become King of Wakanda in a peaceful transition of power, serving as a de facto advisor to the throne. However, as things get complicated for our hero, she sets aside any political functions and instead operates as a mother whose sole concern is the physical well-being of both 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 anchor to 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 and as she's growing into her humanity and her adulthood. As a mother of a boy and a girl, I know that there are just different dynamics and tensions that play out between boys 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 she unexpectedly found herself becoming the Queen Mother to the cast who often referred to her off camera as such. And she embraced it all with fulfilling results both onscreen 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 learned from each other."

Continuing, she adds, "Chadwick is such a talent. From the beginning there was warmth, camaraderie and a great deal of respect for his previous work, so when I look at him with proud eyes, they were as a proud mother, Ramonda, and also as his proud colleague, Angela."

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 take a moment before we started filming to thank her. She did a movie, 'Akeelah and the Bee,' which inspired me to want to act. She's amazing and she's funny. She's given me so much advice and reassures me when she sees I'm frustrated. Her advice is something I 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 would," 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 to 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."

FOREST WHITAKER

Zuri is the spiritual leader of Wakanda. A good friend to former King T'Chaka, Zuri has 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 garden of the Heart-Shaped Herb that gives Black Panther his powers.

For Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, joining the "Black Panther" cast as Zuri was akin to a family reunion with Coogler and Jordan with whom he collaborated as a 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.

ANDY SERKIS

Ulysses Klaue is an illegal arms dealer, smuggler and gangster operating out of South Africa, whom we met in "Avengers: Age of Ultron." He is after Wakanda's vibranium and in the Black Panther's crosshairs.

Andy Serkis was always game to revisit the role of the South African arms dealer who first appeared in "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and once he heard Coogler was set to direct he signed on despite an overwhelming schedule.

It was worth it for the award-winning actor, who says, "Ryan has really come up with something special with 'Black Panther.' It's an extraordinary retelling of essentially everything that we know about Black Panther from the comic while creating Wakanda in a wondrous yet accessible way. He's a brilliant director who's all about character and knows this world so well. He's created something that is really smart, really skillful and very pertinent. It's truly a film for our times."

Klaue is a unique character who possesses a dark unstable sensibility that allows the 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 despite his alliance with Killmonger he continues to work his own agenda.

"We do really honor the character of Ulysses Klaue and his brutal history with Wakanda," says Serkis. "I wanted him to retain that anger and if there is any redeeming factor about Ulysses Klaue it is that he wants to expose their hypocrisy. Ryan really wanted this interpretation to be fresh and show that Klaue now lives for the moment and enjoys his new weapon and his new life. There's a lot of humor in the way that Ryan and I have worked on the character together."

Rounding out the cast are German actress Florence Kasumba who plays Ayo, the Dora Milaje who first appeared in "Captain America: Civil War"; South African actor/playwright John Kani ("Captain America: Civil War," "Coriolanus") who returns to play T'Challa's father King T'Chaka; and Emmy Award-winning actor Sterling K. Brown ("This Is Us," "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot") appearing as N'Jobu, a Wakandan War Dog.

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