Constructing Wakanda: The World of the Black Panther
The forthcoming installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe introduces a diverse cast including Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Freeman, and Michael B. Jordan, who managed to score his second chance at Marvel victory following the devastation of the Fantastic 4 reboot.
Ironically, the film has been in talks for longer than we initially thought, with Wesley Snipes expressing interest in producing the film back in the early 1990’s. When Stan Lee joined the project, he confirmed that production would no longer commence due to the quality of the script. When the MCU finally started to gain traction Black Panther was announced as one of the ten films to be developed by Marvel Studios and distributed by Paramount Pictures. Over a decade later, it is complete and set for an early 2018 release.
Why did it take so long do you ask? It’s not because of equality or whitewashing, but because of the script, the costume design, dialect training, and of course, the conceptualization of Wakanda. Cast members have discussed what it was like working on set of the film, and to be entirely honest with you, it’s a step in the right direction for the future of the MCU.
Martin Freeman, one of the few white actors credited on the film, reprises his role as Everett Ross, one of the lead agents in the Joint Counter Terrorist Centre. He arrives in Wakanda as an assistant to T’Challa, in an attempt to counteract the actions of the films main antagonist. Freeman describes Wakanda as, “…an incredibly technologically advanced first world country, which no one knows about because it has shut itself off for its own safety and its own existence sake”. From his characters perspective he continues, “…like a CIA guy would assume, there wouldn’t be much in this central African country that would surprise him, and then he realizes that it resembles something 70 years in the future. Its kind of amazing”.
The director of the film, Ryan Coogler, would often assign homework to the cast members, usually in the form of a close study analysis of different African tribes. Through training and research, each member of the cast gained an insight to how his or her character would act, talk and dress.
Danai Gurira, most famously known for her role as Michonne on The Walking Dead, joins a large cast of African and African American actors. She says, “Wakanda is very exclusive and insulated, it doesn’t have foreigners come into the country ever. It does present very rich complexity that he is there, and definitely for the security of the nation, we don’t want any one to know that we had brought this man into the country, other than those who are present”. Gurira portrays the leader of the Dora Milaje, the personal bodyguards of the Black Panther recruited from every tribe of Wakanda.
Black Panther is gearing up for its release February 16 Next Year, and by the looks of the trailers and coverage thus far, it is no doubt a step in the right direction for the future of the MCU.