Marvel’s BLACK PANTHER – A Press Conference with a Powerful Message

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The BLACK PANTHER Press Conference took place in Beverly Hills on January 30th and we happily grabbed the best seats and the best audio straight from the mixer. The guest list features the main cast, director and super-producer Kevin Feige. Here is the full list:

  • Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther)
  • Lupita Nyong’o (“Nakia”)
  • Michael B. Jordan (“Erik Killmonger”)
  • Danai Gurira (“Okoye”)
  • Angela Bassett (“Ramonda”)
  • Forest Whitaker (“Zuri”)
  • Andy Serkis (“Ulysses Klaue”)
  • Martin Freeman (“Everett K Ross”)
  • Daniel Kaluuya (“W’Kabi”)
  • Winston Duke (“M’Baku”)
  • Letitia Wright (“Shuri”)
  • Director Ryan Coogler
  • Producer Kevin Feige

BLACK PANTHER is a fun ride of a movie, but it also has important social implications and a powerful message. While we got a glimpse of T’Challa as Black Panther in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, this new stand-alone film picks up a week after the Vienna bombing where T’Challa’s father died. T’Challa returns home to the isolated but very advanced African nation of Wakanda to take his place as King. Wakanda harbors the earth’s most precious resource, Vibranium. Since T’Challa and his people have kept this secret for thousands of years, the rest of the world has yet to know of this technological marvel. (Except for a few who have found out, including Tony Stark and Ulysses Klaue). However, when T’Challa returns to Wakanda after the Vienna bombing, his title as King and Black Panther is tested by an unexpected enemy that puts the entire fate of Wakanda and the world at risk.

T’Challa has the help of many friends, especially a huge female precense: his mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett), his sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) who is a scientist, engineer and doctor; his lead warrior Okoye (Danai Gurira) and his friend Nakia (Lupita N’yongo).

Girl Power

 

Let’s talk about Girl Power for a moment. This film features not one, not two, but FOUR fully rounded-out female characters, and this isn’t even a Rom-Com! Each woman offers wisdom and advice to T’Challa as they navigate through this trying period in Wakanda’s history. His mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett), his sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) who is a scientist, engineer and doctor; his lead warrior Okoye (Danai Gurira) and his friend Nakia (Lupita N’yongo). Lupita speaks about how this affects the movie.

Lupita N’yongo: What I love about the way this film represents women is that each and every one of us is an individual, unique and we hold our own space without being pitted against each other. And I think that’s a very, very powerful message to send to children, both male and female. I think often times in movies we fall into that trap where there’s very few of us women and then we are against each other. There’s a competitive spirit and this film freezes all that. We see women going about their business and supporting each other; having different points of view, but still not being against each other and I think that’s extremely important. The fact that in this film there’s so many of us, we really get a sense of the fabric of Wakanda as a nation and we see women alongside men and we see how much more effective a society can be if they allow women to explore their full potential.

I could write all the fancy words I want, but I couldn’t say it better than Lupita. I was struck by how many women enhanced BLACK PANTHER, especially the troupe of warrior women surrounding T’Challa. Their official title is the Dora Milage, and they have dedicated their life to protecting the ruler of Wakanda. In BLACK PANTHER, the Dora Milage are led by Okoye, played fiercely and beautifully by Danai Gurira. All these warriors sport shaved heads and some display beautiful tattoos.

The shaved heads actually happened – they were not a part of post production, as Gurira will attest.

Danai Gurira: I love the idea of the Dora Milage, the whole concept of them, and then to see them come to life – it was astounding. And then these astounding women who I started training with. I was the first one to get my head shaved and, in theory, it sounded amazing. Afterwards, you go into the restroom to wash your hands, and you look up, you go, ‘what the….!?’ And it took a few days. And then all the girls started coming in – we’d all been balded, you know, one by one. And then the pride started to grow. An embracing of this – this symbol of power in these women. It was so subversive in the right way. You don’t have to have hair to be beautiful.

A mother. A sister. A warrior. A friend. These come to life onscreen. But the Girl Power is not limited to the film itself. Behind the Scenes, BLACK PANTHER benefitted from women in top positions. Ryan Coogler (director) made a point to give each of their names at the Press Conference.

Ryan Coogler: Speaking of some folks that were involved with the film who aren’t here to speak for themselves, this film has involvement from brilliant women all over from start to finish. Kevin Feige runs the (Marvel) studio with his right hand, Louie Esposito, and with his left hand is Victoria Alonzo who is amazing. She was there from day one. Our crew had many women. They weren’t hired because they were women, they were hired because they were the best for the job. Our cinematographer Rachel Morrison, our costume designer Ruth Carter, production designer Hannah Beachler and our assistant director Lisa Satriano, who was responsible for getting her team going. Post production the film was edited by Michael Shawver and Debbie Berman who is from South Africa and finished by Victoria Alonzo. I was incredibly blessed to have these people, to have their perspective and their fingerprints all over it.

Representation

BLACK PANTHER features the first superhero of African decent we’ve seen as a main character on the big screen. Much like 2017’s WONDER WOMAN, BLACK PANTHER should have been made at least 30 years ago. It’s amazing that a character created in 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby at the peak of the Civil Rights movement is supremely relevant today. Producer Kevin Feige speaks on that:

Kevin Feige: 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.

It’s one thing to bring a character to life on the page, it’s another to have him living, breathing and talking onscreen. How does an African-born prince/king speak? Chadwick Boseman gave this serious thought before breathing life into Black Panther for CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR.

Chadwick Boseman: What is considered great or classical is very often British. There was a time period where people were asking me whether or not an audience could sit through a movie with a lead character who spoke wtih an African accent. And it was not Kevin by the way, so just making sure you know that! I became adamant about the fact that that is not true. That the intonations and melodies inside an African accent are just as classical as a British one or a European one and that all of the emotions and aspects of a character can be shown and expressions can be shown through that accent. If T’Challa had never been conquered, if his ancestors had never been conquered and Wakanda is what it is, he doesn’t have to go to Oxford to study. He actually got his education at home and he would not then assimilate a language that is the colonizer’s language in order to speak to his people. So he had to speak with an African accent.

People walked out of this movie buzzing with excitement. The same excitement I felt as a woman, seeing Wonder Woman walk out to face an entire army by herself in No Man’s Land. It is the epitomy of representation onscreen. The same can be said for African Americans and the actors themselves finally able to watch BLACK PANTHER.

Michael B. Jordan: Last night was the first time I saw the film. And when I sat down with my family, you know, and THIS family; it was like, ‘man, this is what it feels like.’ Seeing yourself on screen – not me personally, but people who looked like you – empowered. I couldn’t describe that feeling. Having those socially relevant themes, but in a movie that you can enjoy, that’s what Marvel does so well.

Angela Bassett: In this story, it highlights the queen, the warrior, the general and the young sister. So I was so proud to have my daughter and my son there last night, because in their faces, and in their spirit – and they were feeling themselves. And they stood taller after last night.

Danai Gurira: I think what was really fascinating and very emotional for me being that I’m Zimbabwean and being that, you see the power and the potential of where you’re from, but you see how misrepresented it is by the world. We see beauty, we see power, we see potential, we see ability, we see resources, but they are never exhibited; and then to put it on sort of a Marvel epic scale of exhibition, it really salves wounds in a really deep way.

The Message

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER

Chadwick Boseman: When you talk about what Wakanda is – the idea of an unconquered nation, that has not been tampered with; the idea of the next generation being smarter, being better than you – is a concept that they would have evolved to. So you want your sons and daughters to be better than you were. That concept is a Wakandan concept. And if you have an elder family member around, they’re looking at you like ‘I know you’re looking up to me, but we’re looking up to you.’

Wakanda is similar to an undiscovered, undisturbed natural environment. Think Yosemite or Southern California beaches before they were heavily populated. The beauty was there and a select few knew and benefitted from the environment. What happens when the world discovers these places? Do they protect or exploit the natural surroundings? That becomes the main question in BLACK PANTHER – to keep Wakanda and Vibranium a secret, or share with the world? And who has the right to share this precious gift?

Ryan Coogler: Kevin Feige, this is what he’s all about. He’s all about making something that entertains people, yet leaves you with something to think about.

What will you take away from Marvel’s BLACK PANTHER? The film opens in U.S. theaters on February 16th, 2018 and we want to know! Tweet at us @SkywalkingPod or comment below. Check out Episode 202 of Skywalking Through Neverland (coming 2/15) where we break down this Press Conference as well as the film itself with Screenrant and That Hashtag Show’s Joseph Deckelmeier.

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