So, we’ve all seen every Marvel movie (since Iron Man) the day it comes out, right? Right?! Well, if not – you better catch up quickly, because the next few on the slate are going to be good! We are currently 14 movies into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU) and have 10 more confirmed to be on the way between this summer and 2020. We have been through the highs (Captain America: Civil War) and the lows (Thor: The Dark World) and are eagerly stuck to Marvel’s side as they launch us into Phase 4 of the MCU. We have Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spiderman: Homecoming (*eyeroll*) and Thor: Ragnarok standing between us and what could very well be the most anticipated film to come out of Marvel in the last few years: Black Panther.
After being introduced in Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa of Wakanda – Black Panther if you’re nasty – won our hearts and our respect as a young man forced into rule by the untimely murder of his father, T’Chaka, former king of his home country. Played by Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther easily stole the show from the usual crew of Avengers and left us all wanting more. Marvel didn’t wait too long before whetting our appetite and has slowly started to release tiny details from behind the scenes of the first stand-alone superhero movie to feature a black lead. A director was named and cast announcements trickled in over a few months and with each new update we screamed and cheered and shared articles on Facebook with excitement and anticipation over how amazing this movie has the potential to be.
The adapting of an existing piece of work into a film is no easy task, but that task is even harder when the source material is a comic book that has been fascinating readers since 1966. Director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) is not taking this task lightly. Coogler has long been a fan of comic books and this character in particular, telling HeyUGuys he feels “really fortunate to be able to work on something that [he’s] this passionate about.” The road to getting Black Panther to screen was a long and arduous one and especially after the whitewashing of characters in Doctor Strange, a movie that features – and celebrates – an almost entirely black cast will be a very important and powerful addition to the MCU slate.
With the premiere date creeping ever so slowly towards us we are being teased more and more and just this past week, dailies from the set were screened for press – an event I was rudely not invited to! With this recent influx of news and very positive reactions to the scenes they were shown at the screening, I was inspired to share the cast of this movie and a little background on their comic book character counterparts in an effort to get you even more excited for this film than you are (or should be)! So, let’s take a look at this gorgeous, talented and almost exclusively black cast and try to dig up some potential plot points based on their character’s history in the comic books.
*Potential spoilers below*
After the death of his father, T’Challa returns to Wakanda (a fictional African nation) to step into the role of king. The film will apparently focus on his struggle to be ruler of a nation and a superhero at the same time, which should be an interesting aspect for sure. In the comics, Wakanda is the site of a long-ago meteor crash which enriches it’s land with vibranium (the material used to create Captain America’s shield and is widely considered to be the most in-demand material on Earth) thus leading Wakanda into a technological renaissance. The nation is one of the most technologically advanced in the world and is always on defense from those wishing to take away their resources. T’Challa is their main protector. In the comics he is bestowed with heightened senses and strength thanks to a magical herb he consumes, so I would expect some Marvel magic to take place in the film. Chadwick Boseman showed his serious chops in his previous Marvel appearance and I can’t wait to see him take on the leading role. Boseman has signed on for 5 films (Black Panther being his second) so I am looking forward to seeing how his story plays into the overarching MCU.
Jordan is playing Killmonger, a character that first appeared in the comics in 1973 as a suitable foe for Black Panther. Born N’Jadaka, his character changes his name after being exiled from Wakanda by T’Challa and moves to Harlem where he becomes an expert in martial arts (because it was the 70’s). His story in the comics is that of your typical villain – he returns to Wakanda, stages a coup, tries to murder T’Challa and is eventually killed. I’d say spoiler alert, but villains don’t last too long in the MCU unless you’re Thanos… Jordan is one of the finest actors young actors today and I am kind of anxious to see him play a villain. Though nothing makes me more excited than the idea that Jordan and Chadwick Boseman will fight each other in this movie. Maybe shirtless? Maybe they are fighting over me? I’m just spitballing here…
Born in Wakanda, Nakia is raised into the Dora Milaje, a group of women who are groomed to be the bodyguards and (if tradition is to be upheld) future wives of the king. They are fierce warriors and trusted servants – quite a job description. Oscar winner, Nyong’o will be taking on a very different role for her and I am thrilled that she joined this cast. In the comics, Nakia is so infatuated with T’Challa that she attempts to kill his girlfriend and puts herself in harm just to get his attention. She also is cast out from Wakanda and may or may not slide over to the dark side with Killmonger. Again, the idea of Lupita getting to show off her crazy/evil side is very exciting and I can’t wait to see her take on this role.
With this role, Gurira is really stepping away from her image as Michonne on The Walking Dead. I mean, just look at Okoye from the comics! As part of the Dora Milaje, Okoye is best friends with Nakia and the two work together (at first) to protect the king. Okoye is a relatively new character, first appearing in 1998 and is more of a secondary character, so I am really looking forward to what this role turns into. I am very happy to see Gurira on the big screen, especially since giving up on The Walking Dead after that terrible season 7 premiere…
Ross, who was seen in Civil War, works for the State Department as an official escort for foreign diplomats in the US, though in the MCU his official title is Deputy Task Force Commander of the Joint Counterterrorism Center. In the comics, he is an expert on Wakandan culture and he and T’Challa have a kind of friendship/mutual respect/T’challa is always saving him from danger relationshop… Freeman’s role should be slightly bigger in this film than it was in Civil War, but only time will tell how much a part he plays in the future of the series.
Kaluuya, who just starred in Get Out, is playing Wakandan Chief of Security and T’Challa’s second in command. W’Kabi is very hesitant to trust outsiders and is not an easy egg to crack. In the comics he also gets a bionic gun for an arm, so that’s fun? I’m excited to see more of Kaluuya as he was fantastic in Get Out and is super cute. (Can you tell I have a crush on everyone in this movie yet?)
Ramonda is T’Challa’s stepmother and former queen of Wakanda and it is shocking how much Angela Bassett looks like her comic counterpart! Originally from South Africa, she marries King T’Chaka after his wife dies giving birth to T’Challa and eventually she and the King have a child, Shuri. She is a very strong woman who gets dealt a particularly terrible hand of cards in the comics that involve years of being locked away and sexually abused, so I am hoping for a more pleasant storyline for her in the films. I am just happy to have Bassett be part of this franchise – I adore her! And she can snarl menacingly better than anyone!
In the comics, Zuri is a warrior and right-hand man to T’Chaka, former king of Wakanda. Whitaker’s casting raised questions about the character’s trajectory, with some predicting he will take on a more political role in the franchise. He ends up befriending and mentoring Thor and Captain Marvel in the comic books, so Whitaker could be seen in future MCU films as well.
Serkis is returning to the big screen and this time as a human and not a monkey or a gollum – well, for starters. In the comics, Klaue is a villain and has his hand replaced with a sonic gun/claw (get it?) contraption which makes his villainy even more effective. While Klaw makes appearances in many of the Marvel comic franchises in various forms of mechanization, we’ve only see him as his alter ego in film. We last saw him in Avengers: Age of Ultron as an arms dealer with no special powers who sold a stolen loot of vibranium to Ultron and then has his arm severed by the robotic baddie. So, with a severed arm and a potential desire for more vibranium, we may be seeing Klaue become Klaw during the movie.
“Move or you will be moved.” With one line, Kasumba won so many points with audiences in Civil War that it would be foolish to not have her feature more heavily in Black Panther’s solo film. Ayo has a very interesting storyline in the comics. She falls in love with Aneka, a fellow Dora Milaje, and they escape Wakanda together and eventually become their own superhero duo, The Midnight Angels. Her role in the films seems to be more of a first-in-command for the Dora Milaje, but who knows – we have only seen her for a few brief scenes before. After stunning audiences as wicked witch East in Emerald City she is back to the big screen. I am definitely excited to see more of this character, especially if it allows for some same-sex relationships to be displayed within the MCU. #visibility
23 year old Letitia Wright is sure to make quite a splash with her entry into the MCU. Basically, Shuri is a total bad-ass. She is the daughter of Ramonda and T’Chaka which makes her Black Panther’s half-sister. In the comics it is her desire to be the first female ruler of Wakanda, but her older brother beats her to the crown. T’Challa trains her to be his predecessor should anything happen to him and she becomes an insanely skilled fighter. In one storyline, she eventually does take over as the Black Panther, so I am very curious to see how her character plays out in the films.
Also in the cast – but in an unknown role – is Sterling K. Brown, fresh off his Emmy win for excellently portraying Christopher Darden in The People v. OJ Simpson – American Crime Story. It was previously reported that Phylicia Rashad was joining the cast, but that rumor has since been squashed. Clair Huxtable or no, this cast is stellar and I for one can’t wait til we get our first trailer. Is it too early for one to pop up before Guardians Vol. 2? Will we have to wait until the end of the year for a full peek at the movie? I sure hope not!
Black Panther premieres on February 16 , 2018 and I know I’ll see you all at the midnight screening, right? Save me a seat…I’ll get the popcorn!
All comic book images courtesy of Marvel