On ‘Black Panther’ watch: Chadwick Boseman is beyond ready for the film
Boseman talks superhero influences — plus exclusive video from his Panther workouts
It’ll be another two years before the full-length Black Panther film is released. The film — the first time a big-budget black superhero movie will hit the big screen — stars Chadwick Boseman, and audiences got a sneak peek at what’s to come in Captain America: Civil War, released earlier this year. That film felt very much like an origin story for Boseman’s character, and it easily was the most diverse film in the Avengers series we’ve seen so far.
Out now is the Blu-ray of Captain America: Civil War, with more than an hour of bonus features. And we have an exclusive clip of Boseman in character and talking about getting into fighting shape.
Not that Boseman is giving up the goods on his character’s forthcoming solo film. Instead, he’s focused on the visual power in bringing the story of superhero T’Challa, the heir to the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda, to life. That story is rich, and the character has forced him to think about his own lineage.
“I am of African descent,” said Boseman. “But I don’t have my direct ties because of the transatlantic slave trade. I don’t have that direct connection, so how can I make a deeper, more direct connection? For certain days, listening to certain music … Watching politicians give speeches, watching African politicians give speeches. One of the people that stuck out for us when we started was … Nelson Mandela, obviously.”
The role is physically demanding and Boseman is focused on increasing his athleticism. “Running, swimming, and actually fighting — you’re limited at a certain point when you get closer to production because it’s an insurance risk. But actually doing … martial arts and trying to make it as real as possible … sparring. We did stunt training, you can’t necessarily hit people [but] there is some contact every now and again,” he said.
This role, albeit based on a comic book character, is on-brand for him. Boseman’s biggest roles focus on strong male historical figures. In 2013, he portrayed the legendary Jackie Robinson in 42. He chased that as James Brown in 2014’s Get On Up, and soon we’ll see him as groundbreaking Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. He also co-starred opposite Kevin Costner in 2014’s Draft Day, where he played an NFL draft prospect.
“There are certain things I feel we need to see from African-American characters and characters of African descent. Our past is not limited to slavery. It’s beyond. We have a very rich history in ancient times and when we begin to explore those untold stories after slavery — like Reconstruction — that’s the stuff that interests me. There’s a gold mine of material … that is the African experience.”
Boseman’s high-profile presence on Vanity Fair’s 2014 Hollywood cover confirms that the industry is paying attention to the 2000 Howard University alum, who also graduated from the British American Drama Academy. That’s meaningful, of course. But he doesn’t want to be the only one.
“There was a period of time where it was Sidney Poitier is the guy. And very often, people will come to me or some of the other guys that are doing well right now and they say, ‘They’re going to pass the torch to you.’ And I don’t think that’s right, because it’s possible for there to be a Chris Pine, or a Chris Evans and Chris O’Donnell and a Chris Hemsworth and all the other Chrises … but it can only be one of us at a time? That is part of what’s wrong,” Boseman said. “There’s so much material for white actors that [Hollywood] … has to manufacture stars, sometimes before they’re even ready to be stars. And they will put up billboards before people even know who they are. You’ll be like, ‘Who’s that? Who’s that person?’ But with us, it’s like we have to kill each other before we get there.”
The Black Panther film so far features Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira and is written and directed by Oakland, California, native Ryan Coogler. Boseman, clearly, is the star of the film and possible franchise. But Jordan, who also has been anointed by Hollywood as a must-watch future box office superstar, will exist on the screen alongside Boseman. Two black men. In a high-profile film. On screen. At the same time.
“Absolutely. It’s an opportunity for a lot of people to work. And for the audience to see something that they haven’t seen before — that’s what you want to happen,” Boseman said. “It’s a great feeling to see people get good material.”