A year before box office tracking estimates for Black Panther had it as one of Marvel's largest solo character debuts, Marvel knew they had something special on their hands. Just two and a half weeks into shooting Black Panther in Atlanta, we visited the set where producer Nate Moore tells us stories of director Ryan Coogler and the film's all-star cast.
Coogler wanted to do something special on this one and when Marvel was able to secure the Creed helmer, everything fell into place, most notably a cast of talent they weren't sure they'd be able to get. Moore believes this is partly due to having Coogler on board, and partly because of the subject matter of the film - the first Marvel Studios production with a black lead, not to mention a nearly all-black cast.
Moore tells us on our day at Screen Gems (Pinewood Atlanta is all full due to Avengers: Infinity War and other Marvel projects) that the hope at Marvel Studios is not only to see the cast of Black Panther back for "many" sequels, but to have some of its characters appear in other Marvel franchises as well to help boost diversity across the board.
"We’ve always tried to find room for faces that look like everybody and not just homogenous casting. Panther obviously is a big swing that we hope to continue through many sequels and take some of these characters and put them in other franchises because I do think there’s a way to cross-pollinate in an interesting way."
There are many stories and series in Marvel Comics that already allow for this, whether it be the modern Ultimates series which sees T'Challa/Black Panther and Captain Marvel working together on a team protecting Earth from cosmic threads, or Black Panther working with the likes of Doctor Strange, Reed Richards, and others on a secret New Avengers / Illuminati team to protect Earth from other universes colliding in on them. With Benedict Cumberbatch and Chadwick Boseman successfully owning their characters in their debuts, and now the Fantastic Four joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe thanks to Disney acquiring Fox, all of this is possible.
"But it’s also finding new heroes and new stories that allow us to do that organically. Looking at casting as a way to find the best actor regardless of race or gender frankly. Sometimes we step in it a little bit. I think the Ancient One in Doctor Strange was a bit of a lesson for us. In trying to avoid a stereotype we created an issue that we completely understood in hindsight. But we want to tell stories for everybody. I always point to the Fast and Furious franchise as sort of the standard bearer for casting a film that travels everywhere because somebody is represented no matter where you go. I think that’s really valuable. I think it does something culturally that it’s hard to put a finger on but that really pays off."
As for other Black Panther characters, the Dora Milaje - Wakanda's elite guards lead by Okoye (Danai Gurira) will return in Avengers: Infinity War later this year, but other characters like Shuri (Letitia Wright) - T'Challa's sister and head of the Wakanda Design Group is "the smartest person in the world, smarter than Tony Stark" and my immediate reaction to learning of the MCU version of Shuri is thinking she's the logical successor to Iron Man like Riri Williams is in the comics.
Black Panther may be long overdue, but it's just the beginning.
Next: Michael B. Jordan Interview from the Set of Black Panther
Marvel Studios’ Black Panther follows T’Challa who, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically-advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. But when a powerful old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king—and Black Panther—is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people and their way of life.
Black Panther is directed by Ryan Coogler and produced by Kevin Feige with Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Nate Moore, Jeffrey Chernov and Stan Lee serving as executive producers. Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole wrote the screenplay and Black Panther's cast includes Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, with Angela Bassett, with Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis.
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