Winston Duke’s Marvel character nearly cost him a role in Jordan Peele’s upcoming psychological horror film Us. In the MCU, Duke portrays M’Baku in Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and the upcoming Avengers: Endgame. For his Black Panther performance, the American actor won a Screen Actors Guild Award, and was also nominated by the MTV Movie Awards for Best Fight, alongside Chadwick Boseman.
Born in Tobago, the 32-year-old Duke moved to the United States at age nine. He later attended Yale University, where he received a Master of Fine Arts in Acting degree alongside future Us co-star Lupita Nyong’o. From 2014 to 2016, Duke appeared on the TV series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Person of Interest, The Messengers, Major Crimes, and Modern Family, before landing his feature film debut role in Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther. In the MCU, Duke’s character is the leader of the Jabari tribe who initially opposes T’Challa in Wakanda, but ultimately chooses to fight alongside him against Erik Killmonger. In Avengers: Infinity War, M’Baku manages to survive the genocidal wrath of Thanos.
Per THR, Us director Peele initially believed that Duke might've been too tough to portray the family man Gabe Wilson. After all, the actor was primarily known for his overwhelming MCU character, a trait that doesn’t align with the narrative premise for Peele’s second feature. According to the director, the presence of a notable MCU star could've affected the viewing experience: “It would take away from our ability to feel afraid [for the family] if they have M'Baku on their side. [On the other hand] Winston had this charisma that just stole scenes and really left an impression.” In other words, a world of MCU fans, or those familiar with Black Panther, could subconsciously connect M'Baku to Duke's Us character, one who’s fighting an entirely different battle.
On March 8, Us premiered at SXSW in Austin, Texas. Critics praised Peele’s follow-up to the 2017 modern classic Get Out, for which the filmmaker earned an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. As for Duke, both fans and critics alike are buzzing about his Us performance, in which he plays a man whose family comes face-to-face with horrifying versions of themselves - “The Tethered” - during a California vacation. In the Blumhouse film, Duke’s role seems to require a more subdued acting approach, at least in comparison to M’Baku’s imposing bravado.
Nyong'o has already won an Academy Award for her 2013 performance in 12 Years a Slave, and Duke similarly has major potential for further awards success in the years to come. After Us, the actor will next appear in Peter Berg’s novel adaption Wonderland.
Source: Cinema Blend
- Us (2019) release date: Mar 22, 2019