Nakia is a War Dog Whose Allegiances Might Be in Question
Captain America: Civil War introduced the Dora Milaje - the personal bodyguards of Black Panther, who will also be returning in the solo movie. However, the movie will also introduce another military force: the War Dogs, or Hatut Zeraze, as they were called in the comics. Lupita Nyong'o's character, Nakia, is a member of the War Dogs, and she described the group as:
"Wakanda’s CIA agents. [Nakia]'s job is to spy around the world and report back to Wakanda to keep Wakanda safe and keep Wakanda informed."
Nyong'o also described Nakia as being "in service to her country," and said that her arc during the movie involves deciding whether she's more loyal to her country and her king (not everyone in Wakanda is happy about T'Challa's ascendancy, and his decision to get involved with the outside world). Interestingly, this may mean that Nakia ends up becoming an antagonist instead of an ally for T'Challa - especially since, in the comics, Black Panther disbanded and exiled the War Dogs.
The Wakandan Language is IsiXhosa
One of the challenges of making a movie set in a fictional African country is deciding which cultures of real African countries to draw upon - and Black Panther addresses this challenge by pulling inspiration from all over the continent. Most of the dialogue is in English (for the sake of not filling the movie with subtitles), but Lupita Nyong'o told us that the movie also features isiXhosa, one of the languages of South Africa, which features click consonants as part of its alphabet.
"The Wakandas are super, super advanced... advanced and isolated! One of the ways they keep to themselves is with language. So it’s an adventure to actually pick up this language because it’s actually one of the hardest languages to learn because of the clicks and stuff which faded away the further you get from South Africa on the African continent. So it’s super exciting to challenge ourselves to speak the language, but the film is definitely predominantly in English."
The Dora Milaje are Not Betrothed to T'Challa
When adapting comic books that have been around for decades, Marvel Studios has naturally made a few changes, and Nyong'o told us that "the women as we meet them are departures from what we know of them in the comic books." Among the changes made to the women of Wakanda is the removal of the Dora Milaje's "betrothal" to Black Panther - which essentially designates every one of them as potential future wives for Wakanda's protector. Producer Nate Moore told us that this aspect of the Dora Milaje was deliberately left out of the movie, on account of being "creepy":
"You know, that was sort of part of the original Christopher Priest run where they were all betrothed which we felt wasn’t necessary to tell the story of the Dora and in a way we all kind of rejected as being a little creepy. So we will not be exploring that."
That's not to say, of course, that the Dora Milaje won't have a close relationship with the man they're charged with protecting. Moore also said that Ryan Coogler set out to explore "the depth of the emotional connections between T’Challa and those individuals," so that will be an important part of the movie.
Everett Ross is Not a Comic Relief Character
Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) isn't an easy character to love - coming across as a fussy bureaucrat with little love for superheroes when he debuted in Captain America: Civil War. Ross returns in Black Panther and is exposed to the wonders of Wakanda - a country he had previously dismissed as a third-world nation full of farmers and shepherds. Given that Freeman began his career in comedic projects like The Office and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, some might assume that his role in Black Panther is based around comic relief - but Freeman assured us that this is not the case.
"It was my desire to not be ... I think we've all seen the idea of the goofy white guy among cool black people going, 'What the hell?' I've seen that about four billions times today, so, I don't really need to do that again. I had early conversations with Ryan about that. Both of us were very keen that that wouldn't be the case in this, you know? He has moments of comedy, he has moments of levity and there was humor there, but that's not his purpose."
Freeman also made the point that it would require a great suspension of disbelief to have Ross climbed as high as he has within the CIA and somehow still be a bumbling fool. "He's good at his job," Freeman told us. "It would be slightly incredible for him not to be good at his job and not to be competent at this position that he's at."
Ross is (Mostly) a Good Guy
Freeman was asked directly whether Ross is an ally or a threat to Wakanda. He wouldn't give us a definitive answer, but he did lay out the dilemma that would be presented to Ross over the course of the movie, as he learns what Wakanda is really all about.
"Without ruining it for you, I think there's enough ambiguity there for him to be either [an ally or a threat] and both. I think the position that he's in, like, he works for the CIA, he works for the world's only superpower, so like, an undiscovered African country that has all these goodies in it could easily be, 'Oh good that's payday.' Or that could be something that he wants to respect, I guess and I'll just have to lay the tips in there."
Despite the restrictions and requirements of his job, Freeman thinks that his character is "morally kind of sound... as sound as you can be if you're high up in the CIA." Ross certainly has to make some hard decisions, but "within that, he's a decent guy." Does that mean he can be trusted to keep Wakanda's big secret? We'll just have to wait and see.
- Black Panther (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018