We spoke with Chadwick Boseman about his starring role in Marvel's Black Panther and playing the new King of Wakanda. While visiting the set of Black Panther just short of three weeks into filming nearly a year ago, Screen Rant was able to join a group interview with Boseman to discuss returning to the character after being introduced in 2016's Captain America: Civil War.
In Civil War, T'Challa's family and homeland were only teased, and in Black Panther we learn about his people and his dual role as the new leader of Wakanda and its chief protector - a role that will be challenged.
Does T’Challa consider himself more of a King or more Black Panther?
Chadwick Boseman: At the beginning of this movie? I think neither. Neither. He’s been Black Panther before, but I would say at the beginning of this movie he’s dealing with – it’s shortly after Civil War has ended so he’s still mourning. There’s unrest in Wakanda. So what he’s dealing with his being the king is making the transition to filling the footsteps of his father. So it’s probably going to feel like it’s more about the political unrest than the superhero initially. I don’t know if that answers your question or not.
What’s the learning curve from going from being Black Panther or just being Wakandan royalty to becoming the King?
Chadwick Boseman: He’s been prepared for it his whole life. He’s groomed so to speak to do it. I think it’s just the mental transition and it does not help – like if his father had decided that he was going to step down, I’m too old, I can’t do it anymore then that would be a different scenario. But because he died in the last movie I think the transition has to do with that mourning process and just the mental – he’s been groomed to do it.
Is approaching this role different than working on Captain America: Civil War? Because in this film we’re obviously seeing Wakanda for the first time, we are experiencing there’s meeting his family members so I’m curious if there is kind of a deeper understanding that you’re getting out of the character versus when you were first preparing originally?
Chadwick Boseman: I mean yeah obviously. Not to say that there wasn’t a deep understanding, but some of the things that we came to an understanding of we couldn’t show in the last one so it gives it a chance to marinate. And those certain things that we were unsure about now we’re 100 percent sure about. Like even down to accent and how you walk or what his sense of humor is, which actually develops more in this movie because in the last movie he was pretty focused on what he had to do so there was no time to make any jokes. But in this one you’re sort of seeing him around in his more natural environment and around people that he knows. So you are different according to the people you are around.
What’s the fallout for T’Challa both personally and from the rest of Wakanda for not taking vengeance? Because it was obviously a very conscious decision, it was a major decision for him to not take vengeance there in Civil War for his father.
Chadwick Boseman: The fallout?
Yeah. What can you say about it, both internally for T’Challa and then just kind of how other people are viewing that?
Chadwick Boseman: Fallout is a really strong word, but maybe that’s because it’s me. You don’t want to criticize yourself. But anytime a leader dies, to be general and not give away story, there’s going to be political unrest. And the fact that it’s not unlike our world where you will have one political party sort of, not to be specific about that, one political party sort of point the finger at someone for being soft or not being tough enough when it comes to their foreign policy or that type of thing. So that would be the best way to describe it. But is it complete unrest where he can’t overcome it? I wouldn’t go that far.
For him internally like do you feel that T’Challa is comfortable with the choice he made?
Chadwick Boseman: The choice he made in Civil War? Yes. I think he is comfortable with the final choice, that final choice. Yes.
When T’Challa showed up in Civil War the fan reaction was just so huge I think more than even a lot of people expected, seeing that reaction how excited people were over getting to meet to this character kind of impact how you approached this movie in anyway?
Chadwick Boseman: No. No. Because I’m not saying I expected the fan reaction to be what it was, but to a certain degree I’m unaware of the fan reaction. That’s number one. He’s like you don’t believe me.
I don’t want to believe you. The #BlackPantherSoLit hashtag?
Chadwick Boseman: Yeah, see…
Chadwick Boseman: I see it. I see certain things, but I see it in a different way because it’s important for me to not look at everything that’s happening so I see it because some stuff is impossible to not see. But there’s a certain removal I have to have from it in order to play it because you have people saying it’s got to have this or it’s got to have that and if you were to follow – if I was to follow their thoughts from the last one it would’ve been a lot of stuff that was wrong. So I think you kind of have to stay in it in a way where your decisions are made based upon the things that are organic – there’s a lot of storytellers here; all of the different departments are all storytellers and so your collaborating with them more so than you can the audience. You are collaborating with the audience, but if I was doing a play and I’m onstage with somebody and the audience responds we get that direct, you know, I know that that worked because you responded to it. But between blogs and this and that and journalists it’s like you can’t really put your foot in that. So I would say no it’s the fact that now in this case you have a new director that’s building on the steps of previous directors and writers and new writers. It’s the baby of Stan Lee and Feige. There’s so many other factors that come into play, various different writers and various different versions of the character so it’s a lot of stuff to put in that you are being influenced by.
How did the collaboration with Ryan Coogler shape the way you saw Black Panther and his story?
Chadwick Boseman: Ask it again.
How did collaborating with Ryan shape the way – did you look at the character differently after he came onboard and you started talking about the character? Did it refine the way you look at him?
Chadwick Boseman: I think we have very similar views anyway. That’s one of the reasons why - it’s like they put us together like have you ever dated somebody and somebody was like you’re really going to like this person? It’s kind of like that. So we have very similar views about what things should be like and the things that we usually have a difference of opinion about it’s so minute what of those differences are that I think it’s more of a growth because there’s nobody battling you. We’re constantly building on each other so it’s been a good marriage so far.
So in previous roles or previous leading roles we’ve seen you as Jackie Robinson and James Brown and soon to be Thurgood Marshall, how did you prepare for this role mentally and physically compared to those roles? Because you were obviously playing historical figures, was there like a weight was lifted because you didn’t have to tell somebody’s story and kind of their truth?
Chadwick Boseman: It’s like putting down one and picking up another one. I think the preparation is basically the same. And the different genres feed on each other. Like I just played Thurgood Marshall before I came into this and there was a certain amount of freedom that I felt going into that having played this. If I had gone from Jackie Robinson to James Brown to Thurgood Marshall, but playing something like this gives you a certain amount of freedom. And then going back to this from that that it gives you a certain amount of weight I think. So I think they help each other. Really playing Thurgood Marshall is preparation for this. It’s like you see a comedian before he does his big HBO or Showtime whichever special, he will be in LA and in New York doing like small little comedy clubs. That’s kind of what it’s like. Once you’ve done Civil War you can’t really stop training for this. I can’t have the same body for Thurgood Marshall so you have to tone that down, but he was with me when I was doing Thurgood Marshall he’s training me while I’m doing Thurgood Marshall working with [Martial Arts Master] Marrese Crump while I was doing Thurgood Marshall. So it’s like you carry those things with you because you know you’re about to go into the next thing so it kind of never stopped.
As far as carrying, Avengers: Infinity War is in production right now, I’m curious how that’s affecting you schedule wise. Like are you going to be doing this for now and then focusing on that later or how does that schedule work?
Chadwick Boseman: I told you you can’t ask me that. I don’t know nothing about that.
What draws you in or fascinates you about being a part of the Marvel family now?
Chadwick Boseman: Well one, I mean they have a good batting average in terms of successful films and films that people love. And to be specific about this film and this character it’s just a good character. It’s an interesting character. Because if it was somehow not as good as it is I wouldn’t want to do it. Just because it’s Marvel it doesn’t mean you want to do it. They tend to be offering people stuff that’s interesting and good and wanting to push envelopes in certain places. So this one I think is obviously you’ve never seen a movie like this before so it’s just cool. For me every project it has to be something that’s challenging and cool and that’s a challenge for me. It keeps me interested. So that’s all that really matters. This is definitely one of them.
Can you talk about your female characters that you’re playing with so Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright - they’re all very strong, very valuable women to what…
Chadwick Boseman: You’re telling me about it! [Laughs]
Can you talk about what you think that each of those characters bring to your character and what makes him better?
Chadwick Boseman: That’s a loaded question right there. I’ve got to watch you. I think the first one I’m going to talk about is actually Shuri played by Letitia. That character to have a little sister - it’s not very often that you see a superhero with a little sister. So I think that is probably not going to occur to people that that’s a – it’s not unheard of but it’s an unusual thing so I think it brings out a different part of his character. Usually you have the damsel in distress. I don’t think there are any damsels in distress in this movie. That doesn’t exist in this movie. Like you say all these characters are strong. Even if it’s not a physical prowess there is a mental prowess. It’s intelligence and savvy and so all of them present that, but the one that stands out the most actually is Shuri because of the ability to sort of the way a little sister can poke at you and you’re protective of her but she still thinks she’s your mother like all those different things. And the actress has those qualities I think she just makes you happy as soon as you see her. Everyday she comes in you’re like oh shoot it just changed my attitude about everything. So I think that’s the one that stands out the most.
Obviously you have Angela Bassett here. She’s incredible to watch and, again, she’s always really strong. I would say in this movie because my father is dead it gives me the opportunity to sort of look to her for wisdom and I think it shows the matriarchal African society in doing that so she’s an advisor that I would go to. And it’s a close relationship, it’s not just like she’s my mother she’s on the side, she’s not a figurehead mother. And to have Lupita and Danai, I’m not going to really talk about their characters too much, but just to have them here, I mean it’s just a beautiful thing. I love them as actresses. They challenge the director everyday. He’s like they’re getting in me. So they challenge him everyday and they bring those same challenges that their characters have. They sort of attack T’Challa in the same way. They’re not afraid to challenge him. So I think it’s cool to have conflict that’s not I’m going to kill you conflict. You need other types of conflict to bring out other parts of your character. So I think the fact that they present conflict without being enemies, in most cases, then that’s a cool thing.
I wanted to just talk really quick about T’Challa’s love life. The history in the comics it’s been rather complicated and sparse so is there going to be any kind of romantic arc for T’Challa in this film?
Chadwick Boseman: You all just tagteamed me right? If he doesn’t answer that I’m just going to go straight to it. Okay. Cool.
Okay. Can we say this, is somebody going to be moved this time? Because we would love to see that.
Chadwick Boseman: To be what?
Or you be moved? We would love to see that.
Chadwick Boseman: Yeah. Yeah. I would say yeah. You’re talking about Ayo.
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.