In June 2015 we traveled to Pinewood Atlanta Studios to visit the set of Captain America: Civil War, the same location where a year prior we visited the production of Ant-Man. Where the latter focused on introducing a new Avenger, the former brings back… all of the Avengers and then some, including Ant-Man in a new costume.
And while new costumes, including Hawkeye’s completely redesigned outfit, were the highlights of the action sequences we saw being shot that day, by far the most interesting and exciting thing we saw on set was Black Panther. Chadwick Boseman plays the character whose real name is T’Challa, and he’s the first Marvel Studios lead character to get introduced in another movie before getting his own solo story.
The Black Panther costume, which at the time had only been revealed in official concept art, was unlike any other suit we’ve seen in the MCU to date. It has its own style and aesthetic, unique to Wakanda, a nation we’ve still yet to explore but will in Phase 3. It also requires CGI in post-production to complete the helmet, not unlike the Iron Man, War Machine, and Vision character designs. And in the hot summer weather in Atlanta, the Black Panther costume is excruciating to wear, especially in the fight scenes where we saw the character leaping, clawing, and performing impressive martial arts moves against The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).
The day before we saw Black Panther in action on set, a runway of a German airport that will be filled out in post thanks to 80-foot green screens surrounding the outdoor location shot, we sat down with Chadwick Boseman to talk about the character and Captain America: Civil War. He couldn’t say much, but we did get into the character’s Wakandan accent, what the Black Panther solo movie could explore, and his role in the MCU compared to Captain America and Iron Man.
So how do you fit into this movie? Is this an origin story for you, or do they just kind of throw you into the middle of it?
Chadwick Chadwick Boseman: I’m just kind of thrown into the middle. It’s definitely not an origin story, no. It’s not an origin story.
So how do you factor in then? When we meet you, are you already Black Panther?
Chadwick Boseman: You meet me as the Prince of Wakanda. You meet me as a politician/monarch, not as a superhero.
So we’ll see that transformation in this film maybe?
Chadwick Boseman: It’s not necessarily a transformation. I am just thrown into the mix. To answer your question, yes, I am already a Black Panther – a Black Panther, yeah.
Do we get to see Wakanda at all?
Chadwick Boseman: No. Sorry. I know you thought you were because of Age of Ultron, but… [Laughs] It’s not happening.
Is there a Wakandan accent, or do you just speak in your regular voice?
Chadwick Boseman: Can I answer that? Yes! Yeah, there’s a Wakandan accent.
What was it like putting on the costume for the first time?
Chadwick Boseman: It’s hot. It’s blazing hot. Listen, it’s so hot. I’ve never been that hot before in my life, seriously.
Is it all one piece, or is it a multiple-step process to get into it?
Chadwick Boseman: I can’t tell you that. [Laughs] I can’t tell you that because I don’t want you picturing how it happens. It’s not cute.
You’re in this movie obviously with all the other people playing costumed characters that they’ve already established. Were they able to give you any pointers, whether that be about dealing with the heat of the suit or just jumping into this world altogether?
Chadwick Boseman: You know what, I don’t think there’s any way for anybody to prepare you for this. I just think people have been very gracious and welcoming in welcoming me on set, and even off set. What was more important was, you know, Chris has been very cool in terms of inviting me to stuff and giving me a hard time in the best way. His sense of humor is great. Robert Downey has been great as well, Mackie — everybody. Everybody’s been cool. Don Cheadle. So I’ve seen a lot of them separate from being here, so it didn’t feel like when I got here it was like all of a sudden meeting them for the first time. I think that’s what’s weird, is when you step on the set and all of a sudden — you know, I’ve worked with really great actors before, but there’s always a certain amount of nervous energy, just because you don’t know these people, so yeah.
You’ve had a recent run of playing iconic figures in history, like James Brown and Jackie Robinson. What’s appealing about someone like Black Panther as a fictional character?
Chadwick Boseman: That he’s fictional. [Laughs] That’s the main thing. I don’t have to — not that I didn’t like doing this. I loved interacting with the family members, the Brown family members, the Robinson family members. But in this case, I don’t have to go talk to the Queen of Wakanda. [Laughs]
But you do have that expectation of knowing about the comic book character. So how much research did you do, or were you already totally familiar?
Chadwick Boseman: No, I was not totally familiar. I think what you try to do is just get your hands on every single comic book you can find that has the character in it, or him being mentioned or anything. I’ve just tried to read them all — not like it’s really work. It is work – don’t get me wrong – it is work, but it’s just sort of reading them like a kid, you know? Because when you just read it like it’s work, you’re just trying to get through it. So I think it’s putting yourself in that mind frame to go through the mythology in a fun way. And then, also, I’ve gone to South Africa, gone to some places, to see some things that I think relate to the character, and let those things sort of fuel your workouts, fuel your sessions when you work on the part.
Did you read a lot of comic books as a kid, and if so who were some of your favorites?
Chadwick Boseman: I didn’t, I didn’t. I wasn’t a comic book geek as a kid. I read some, but it was just like, “Oh, I have this comic book here.” It wasn’t like I was collecting them. I didn’t really collect much of anything — baseball cards, nothing. I had some of them too, but I wasn’t a collector. But this has been a much more aggressive intake of that material. It is interesting too because it’s different than watching the films, different than reading a novel or anything else. It’s a different way to — I think it helps you a lot as a filmmaker because the exposition and things that happen in a film are done much differently than they are in a comic book, but some things do coincide. So I think it helps you as an artist.
So what separates your character from some of the other heroes that we’ve seen in terms of abilities, weapons, that kind of thing?
Chadwick Boseman: I can’t say, if you’re talking about his abilities. He’s not the strongest, you know what I’m saying? He’s not necessarily the fastest, but he’s strong and he’s fast. He has a wit, a wisdom and a plan – an overarching plan – that a lot of times you don’t necessarily see. So it’s his strategy during a fight or during a battle, and it’s not just him that I think is the – as far as the comic book goes, I think that’s different. As far as this movie, you know, this is an introduction to the character.
Do you see a lot of action in this movie?
Chadwick Boseman: I see a fair share, I see a fair share… I think the difference in him is that he’s a ruler of a country. That’s the difference. I wouldn’t even call him a superhero. In the mythology of the country, he’s not a superhero. He’s a warrior, and it’s part of their tradition. It’s not like he’s like, “Who is that masked guy that’s doing this stuff?” Everybody knows it’s him, and they expect that it’s him, and they pray to God, or even him in some cases, that he would do the things that he’s doing. Which is much different than most of the superheroes in which you don’t know their identity and you don’t know when they might show up. There’s an expectation that’s much different. So that’s the main difference.
You said that you pretty aggressively took in Black Panther in order to get ready for the role. Was there any particular story arc of his that you really related to?
Chadwick Boseman: See, I knew somebody was going to ask that question, and the answer is “yes,” but I’m not going to tell you which one, because if I tell you which one, you’re going to say, “Oh, that’s what the Black Panther movie is going to be about.” So the answer is “yes” and “none a’ ya business.” [Laughs]
[Laughs] Have the events of the previous movies weighed on the way this character sees the world? Is he sort of like, “Hey remember when that country went into the sky?” What is his awareness of that?
Chadwick Boseman: He’s aware of the Avengers, absolutely, yeah.
What’s his perception of them as far as how their existence and the destruction that usually comes with them being heroes has affected his country and his people?
Chadwick Boseman: Clever. That’s very clever of you. [Laughs] I think as far as – because you’re referring to the comic book – he sees both sides of the coin. He sees both sides. It’s necessary to stop crime and to protect your country. He understands that, because that’s what he has to do. But there’s a way to do it that is the best way. Like if it was the Art of War, it would be like, how can you inflict less pain? How can fewer people die and still win the war? He’s a tactician. He’s a strategist, so he appreciates that thought process. So it’s both sides.
Would you say then he is sort of the middle ground between Captain America and Iron Man?
Chadwick Boseman: He’s definitely a middle ground at this point, yeah.
You mentioned he’s a ruler, he’s a politician as well, and we know from Avengers: Age of Ultron now there are people who know about Wakanda. Is Wakanda known throughout the whole world, or is it still a secretive society?
Chadwick Boseman: Wakanda is known to the world, yes. [Laughs]
Now, when you said we first meet you as the ruler of Wakanda –
Chadwick Boseman: I did say that.
Will we get to meet any of his family or guards or anyone of that nature in this movie, or is that going to be saved for your movie?
Chadwick Boseman: Ah… you gotta wait. I’m sorry. All being saved for…
You mentioned this was the introduction to your character. How do the events of this film inform Black Panther’s solo film?
Chadwick Boseman: Well, just in a basic way. You’re seeing him in the larger scheme of things, like fighting outside of his country. So it will definitely affect what you see later. That’s all I can say. [Laughs]
On that note, I think this is the first time we’ve seen a Marvel movie introduce a major character in another film knowing that afterwards there will also be a solo film for him.
Chadwick Boseman: Is it?
I think so, yeah.
Chadwick Boseman: Wow, I feel special.
[Laughs] But I’m curious about what you feel makes this story right for introducing Black Panther. Do you see any advantages for being introduced in this way and being able to burn the character in a supporting role before headlining your own film as the star?
Chadwick Boseman: Yeah, absolutely. Like if I was doing my own comedy show on HBO or something, in most cases I would go do standup at The Comedy Store in LA or some local spot, and I would gear up to do that. So when you see Thor, you know, “Who’s going to be Thor?” that’s a rough way to do it. It’s much better to — and particularly, in this case, a lot of people don’t know who Black Panther is. So I think they’re really smart to introduce him and let people know, “Oh, yeah, this guy was one of the major comic book characters. He was part of the Avengers.” That history is important for people to get before you have a standalone movie. So I think it’s the best way to do it, absolutely.
Is there anything that you wanted to write into the character that wasn’t in the comic book originally?
Chadwick Boseman: Yes, and I’m not answering that. [Laughs] Yeah, there are definitely things that I think will show up more so later. I shouldn’t say that they’re not in the comic books, because they’ve been written by several different writers: Kirby, Stan Lee, Christopher Priest – all of the writers have come up with different aspects of who he is. So you could take different things from each one, and they don’t contradict each other necessarily. The principals and essence of who he is are still there. He’s a little cooler in some of them. In Christopher Priest’s version, he doesn’t trust anybody, you know what I’m saying? All of it is good stuff to use. There’s a sense of him searching for himself in some of the ones in the ’80s, which I think is really good. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I think a lot of those things are good things to put into a movie.
How do you interact with characters like Tony Stark or Steve Rogers? As a prince, do you look at them as equals, or should these guys take orders from you?
Chadwick Boseman: [Laughs] That’s a good question. I would say it’s both. There’s always going to be a sense, like if you’re a monarch, that you – it’s not a superiority, but I could always call rank if I have my own country, you know? [Laughs] There’s a space in which I rule. If I’m not in that space, it’s much different though. We’re not in Wakanda, as I said, and all is fair in love and war. Things become equal in war. If you’re not an officer on one side or the other, you can’t really pull rank.
It was quite awhile from when they announced that you were Black Panther to you guys filming this. So did the anticipation keep building, or did you just get to a point where you were like, “Just put me in the suit, man”?
Chadwick Boseman: No, I have not gotten to the point where I’ve said, “Just put me in the suit,” because that suit is hot! [Laughs] Once you’re in it, you’re ready, but once I realized how hot that suit was going to be, I’ve not said that one time.
[Laughs] Introducing him in this movie to get audiences more used to Black Panther, does this mean that when you do get into the Black Panther movie it won’t be an origin, that you can take off running? Or will they still need to explain more about Black Panther, like his abilities and things?
Chadwick Boseman: I can’t really answer that question – not because I’m trying to be dodgy or anything – but anything is possible in film, because flashbacks. Like, you never know. I can’t answer that, because there’s no script. So it’s just best to say, “I don’t know.” [Laughs]
But you assume that Black Panther the movie takes place after Civil War. You assume it’s not set in the past.
Chadwick Boseman: I don’t think you can assume anything, because there’s also such a thing as a prequel also. I think anything is possible.
Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War finds Steve Rogers leading the newly formed team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity. But after another incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in two camps—one led by Steve Rogers and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability.
Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Emily VanCamp, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd and Frank Grillo, with William Hurt and Daniel Brühl.
Anthony & Joe Russo are directing with Kevin Feige producing. Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Victoria Alonso, Patricia Whitcher, Nate Moore and Stan Lee are the executive producers. The screenplay is by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely. Get ready to pick a side and join the nonstop action playing out on two fronts when Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War opens in U.S. theaters on May 6, 2016.
Black Panther is scheduled for theatrical release July 6, 2018.