Angela Basset & Forest Whitaker Interview: Black Panther

Angela Bassett is a legendary actress, most known for her biographical film roles like Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It, Betty Shabazz in Malcolm X and Panther, and Rosa Parks in The Rosa Parks Story. In recent years she has become more known for her roles in Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story series, where she has portrayed a famed Voodoo queen, a three-breasted woman, and actresses in different eras.

Forest Whitaker has had a long and extensive career, building a reputation for his extensive character study work in films like The Butler, Bird, and Platoon. He won numerous awards, including an Academy Award, for his portrayal of a Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 2006 film, The Last King of Scotland. Now they will be portraying Ramonda and Zuri in the upcoming Marvel’s Black Panther.

Screen Rant got a chance to talk with Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker on press day, where we discussed their opinions about how Black Panther transcends genre, what they took from working with the younger generation of actors, and what it was like working with director Ryan Coogler.

Screen Rant: First of all, this movie it's incredible. It's amazing and it transcends even the comic book genre, at least for me it did. You guys have both worked on small, intimate dramas that focus more on social issues and big blockbusters that are more of a spectacle. Talk to me about your opinion on this actually transcending the genre that it's even in.

Forest Whitaker: It's a film encapsulated within itself. It's not like living in, like, the other world of Marvel, it's a new one, one we haven't seen before. Wakanda is a space that we don't know. The difference is that makes a character even more unique is not only is he African, he's also a king. And so it deals with the political universe of Wakanda and how he reflects to the world. I mean, his father T’Chaka was killed at the [United Nations]. You know, so now we find him exploring whether or not their country should be enveloped or dealing with the rest of the world and whether or not he should go into the U.N. and discuss to them the problems of the world and save the world. So it becomes a different animal emotionally, you know? With humor and so many different things, you know? Visually, you know?

SR: Absolutely. You know now both of you guys have been in this business for a while and you get to work with the younger generation of great actors. What did you learn from them and what did you pass on to them?

Angela Bassett: With their, you know, preparation, professionalism, you know, and the talent notwithstanding that's just first and foremost, they were and I think a great inspiration to us as well. It was just a tremendous sense of pride to see them show up and be able to meet me this moment and exceed it. From Ryan [Coogler], the director, young director, okay? This is only his third feature and you know Forest having worked with him and you know being his mentor and getting him started with Fruitvale [Station] to Creed and then it's just, it's like a stair step, right? But this is, this is the biggest leap! Right, you know? To this one.

Forest Whitaker:  Trying to figure out what the next leap is.

Angela Basset: Yeah, exactly. It was just great pride, you know, in the excellence of everything that they brought to bear, each and everyone. From every creative in front of the camera to everyone behind, you know, whether it's the [Director of Photography) Rachel Morrison or [Costume Designer] Ruth Carter or Production Designer Hannah Beachler, it was just such a complete world. Everyone came with their A game.

SR: You know, I saw Ryan speak once at Sundance and if people cared about their jobs as much as he cares about films and storytelling, this world would be a better place, I feel like. Talk to me about working with Ryan, because he's a phenomenal storyteller.

Forest Whitaker: Yeah I mean I think he has, like, great clarity, you know, clarity of purpose in life. But I think he also has a collaborative spirit to work with individuals to make them feel free to try to find the truth in what they're doing in the scenes and you know which is unique and he's really technically savvy. I mean, somebody was trying to talk to him something about instincts or something, and I was like, “Here’s someone who, like, knows so much about film, like knows every-, studied every shot, looked at this movie every single day when he was cutting it, fully through.” You know what I mean? I think he’s a committed artisan who’s like got a powerful spirit and caring about society.

Angela Basset: He’s such a wonderful collaborator and he's a fierce storyteller and brother. But he also has this tenuous as the Queen Mother would say. He has a tender heart, he has a tender spirit, and he wears it on his sleeve. And it's just a part of who he is and it makes him that large and that much larger. Yeah, he doesn't diminish, it only expands him even more because he's a magnet. People want to show up and show out for him that, you know, you wanted to join his army.

SR: Well I definitely did. This movie’s great guys, thank you so much, it’s fantastic.

MORE: Letitia Wright Interview for Black Panther

Key Release Dates
  • Black Panther (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018
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