Five Things I Learned From the Black Panther Press Conference
Coming down from the high of attending the World Premiere of Black Panther, we had the opportunity to attend the press conference the next morning with several stars of the movie. Usually, on interview days, we arrive and head straight to our interview room, this time we had the chance to attend that big conference since we weren’t interviewing all the cast members in attendance that day.
We arrived very early before the conference was getting ready to start. We wanted to make sure we had great seats close to the stage. In the lobby, there was a huge Black Panther Movie cutout that you usually find in movie theaters. It was perfect for taking photos. There were also several costumes from the movie on display. Most I’d already seen and shared in my D23 Black Panther Costume Showcase post last summer.
There were several products on showcase as well in the lobby for people to admire while they awaited the start of the conference. One they were ready to start, we were called into the room by numbers we received when we checked in. We waited patiently and soon the moderator Nichelle Turner of Entertainment Tonight was on stage introducing the cast in attendance. Nichelle jumped right in asking questions and talking about the film.
Chadwick Boseman Was Always Black Panther
I’ve seen a lot of posts and internet talk about Wesley Snipes being the first choice for Black Panther. All those posts go back to old articles as old as 1992, however, during the global press conference, Kevin Feige made it clear that Chadwick Boseman was Marvel Studios first choice for Black Panther. While Snipes may have been in talks in the past, the current Marvel Studios team’s clear choice was Chadwick from the start.
KEVIN FEIGE: I think you hear people say this all the time when you’re in a setting like this. But he was the only choice. It may not have been this fast, but in my memory, we were sitting around a table, we were coming up with the story for Civil War – Nate Moore, our executive producer, suggested bringing in Black Panther, because we were looking for sort of a third party who wouldn’t necessarily side with Cap or side with Ironman. And almost instantly, we all said Chadwick. And in my memory, although maybe it was the next day, we got him on a speaker phone right then. And he was in the back of a limo, and – where were you, in Switzerland?
CHADWICK BOSEMAN: We were in Zurich, yeah, in Zurich. And I was coming off of the red carpet for Get On Up. And my agent was like, ‘You’ve got to get on the phone.’ And the crazy thing is I didn’t even have international calling on my phone [LAUGHTER] until that morning – and I heard, literally we heard somebody say, ‘Hey, get international on your phone. Call your mom.’ [LAUGHTER] It’s some important stuff, literally, that happened, and then that night he called.
Forest Whitaker Has Been Talking About Ryan Coogler for Years
Nichelle started to talk to Ryan about meeting him along with Forest Whitaker and Michael B. Jordan at Sundance when he was showing Fruitvale Station. He recalled an exchange with the actor and how he had been talking about how brilliant he felt Ryan is, and how he’s just getting started. Now he’s the director of one of the most anticipated films of 2018.
FOREST WHITAKER: Yeah, I mean, I knew it from the moment that I met him. When he started to express himself, and I could feel, like, the center of what he wanted to communicate to the world, and how he wanted to touch the world, and it really was a really powerful thing to see. And then I think when he started to talk to me about his ideas – at that time, he was in school, I remember thinking, you know, this person, if he’s given the right space, he’s going to do something that can change our lives in some way. And I thought that Fruitvale was that thing.
That was the thing that he suggested, one of the projects he had, and really believed in it. And I was fortunate enough that he felt comfortable with us, producing that for him, and working with him on it. I’m just blown away just watching his growth, every time, to see him really – how he’s able to just manifest so much importance, and in socially relevant moments, inside of things that we want to sit and watch. And so it’s been quite a powerful experience for me last night to watch that.
Michael B. Jordan Talks About Celebrating Being Black
As a black woman living in America, I can honestly say that the joy I feel about this film is deeply rooted in my heritage. I would be lying if I didn’t say being black makes me more excited about Black Panther and what it means for people like me. For Hollywood to finally give us the opportunity to have something this amazing. It’s something for us all. I’ve never felt the way I have in any premiere like I did sitting in my seat at the Dolby Theater watching the film. Nichelle shared what it meant for her and asked MBJ to share his thoughts as well.
MICHAEL B. JORDAN: Last night was the first time I saw the film. And I think I had a little bit of that. I called Ryan – the night before or the day before, and I was like, ‘Man, I’m anxious; I’m nervous, man. I don’t know, kind of like what to expect.’ And he says, ‘Look, man, just look at it and try to be a fan. Just watch it, you know what I’m saying, and try to enjoy it.’ I was like – and in the back of my head I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s never gonna happen.’ [LAUGHTER] ‘But I’m gonna try.’ And when I sat down with my family, and this family, and the audience, and I had that same type of reaction. It was like, man, this is what it feels like. There’s nothing that I could have – I couldn’t describe that feeling before actually sitting down and watching that film. And seeing yourself on screen – not me personally, but people who looked like you – empowered, and having those, socially relevant themes, but in a movie that you want to sit down and watch, and you can enjoy, that Marvel does so well. So I think it was a really good balance, and everybody won; everybody did amazing, amazing jobs in performances. And it was an incredible film last night.
The Women In the Movie Are All Strong Characters
Since seeing the movie I’ve been singing the praises of Letitia Wright for her portrayal of Shuri. All the women in this film were so strong and empowering. Danai Gurira talked to us about the women’s role in the film and shaving her head bald.
Danai Gurira: Yeah, when Ryan sat me down and talked to me about his vision, and the story, and the characters, and the women, I was just floored, because you don’t actually get to hear that often. You don’t actually get to hear that often. You don’t actually get sat down and hear that type of a vision. And then it embodied with us being on the continent, women from the continent, but very developed, very complex. It was amazing. I mean, it was just like, this is going to – like, this is something else – like, I just want to watch it. I get to be in it?
With the Dora Malaje the whole concept of them, and then to see them come to life, and then these astounding women who I started training with. And you know, one by one – like, I was the first one to get my head shaved, in theory, it sounded amazing, And then the day came – [LAUGHTER] and I was like, ‘Was it today?’ and then it happened. And then like I walk into the restroom to wash my hands, and look up, and go, ‘what the….’ And it took a few days. And then all the girls started coming in – like, we’d all been balded, one by one. And then the pride started to grow.
The Movie is Based on Several Marvel Black Panther Comics
One of the bloggers in the audience asked a great question, Cameron, from SyFy Wire. So I have some geeky questions. What comic books did you pull from because this is a modern run it feels like that you kind of seem to be influenced by. So is it like Christopher Priest’s run or Reginald Hudlin or kind of Ta-Nehisi Coates; which comics did you kind of pull from to develop these characters?
RYAN COOGLER: We actually pulled from all of them, you know. We pulled from like pretty much, you can go to our film and see something in there probably from every writer that has touched T’Challa’s character in the Black Panther comics. You know Stanley and Jack Kirby’s initial runs through, you know, Don McGregor, you know, Christopher Priest, Jonathan Hickman, you know and it’s on East Coast Black Age of Comics and Brian Stelfreeze’s run was a big part of it as well, you know, so we just kind of grabbed from all. The characters got a long history, you know, and it’s such a rich stuff to mine, you know. And each kind of writer kind of left their own mark, you know on it like Claude’s been around for a long time. But you know Agent Ross was about Christopher Priest and that run and Suri’s character was about Reginald Hudlin and his run, you know, so each run kind of leaves something for us to pull from, but we pulled from absolutely all of them.
Marvel Didn’t Have a Problem With the Radical and Political Tones in the Movie (Bonus)
There are a few times when I was watching the film, I kept thinking wow, they really went there. The first end scene credit felt like it was written for Americans today. Lupe with CineMovie had a great question for Kevin Feige and Ryan Coogler about that and I couldn’t leave it out. “This film is pretty radical. The whole time I was watching it I was really enjoying it. So for Ryan and Kevin, I mean when I was watching this film I was so entertained, but at the same time, I was thinking man Marvel let them go there? Cool. So can you talk about, you know, how far did you want to take it and Kevin being, sorry, the man, you know, keeping it a level where it’s not too radical, but at the same time you’re presenting a lot of very relevant social themes like isolationism and a lot of societal issues.”
KEVIN FEIGE: Well I think it’s happened for the comics, it’s happened with the movie. Ryan wrote this for the most part, you know, a year and a half ago, two years ago so things have happened in the world which makes the film seem more relevant. There are other things in the film that have been relevant for centuries, but the truth of the matter is Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and the whole Marvel bullpen created Wakanda and created T’Challa and created Black Panther and made him a smarter, more accomplished character than any of the other white characters in the mid 1960s. So they had the guts to do that in the mid 1960s. The least we can do is live up to that and allow this story to be told the way it needed to be told and not shy away from things that the Marvel founders didn’t shy away from in the height of the civil rights era.
View the Entire Press Conference
My friend Ari from Love Peace & Tiny Feet filmed the entire conference and you can see the whole press junket and see all the awesome things the cast had to say about the movie.
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 opens in theaters on February 16th, 2018. That’s just two days, and I’m so excited for you guys to see the movie.