Months after Black Panther hit theaters, it’s clear that Ryan Coogler’s superhero film was a cultural watershed. The movie broke box office records, but more importantly it also told a different kind of story than is usually seen in Hollywood. Its cast was stacked with diverse, accomplished actors, and as star Winston Duke (who played Jabari chieftain M’Baku) explained to EW at this year’s SCAD Savannah Film Festival, the power of Black Panther came from seeing each of these actors get to highlight their characters’ different skills and personalities.
“That’s what’s powerful about these stories. This movie didn’t say we were a monolith,” Duke said. “The structure has always been, you’re all the same. You have a leading man frame, but there’s only room for one. That’s usually how it’s felt in the past. So it can’t be Michael B. Jordan and Chadwick Boseman and Winston Duke and Daniel Kaluuya. But we were all in one movie, and the movie did a beautiful job of highlighting our differences. I think it’s showing us that there’s room for all of us. I think it will and should impact the way Hollywood views the creation of their lead characters. “
Black Panther is about the inhabitants of a fictional African country called Wakanda. In this world, Wakanda’s access to the powerful metal vibranium allowed it to develop technology that protected it from the colonial forces that enslaved the rest of the continent.
“When it comes to oppressed peoples who throughout history have found culture and all these different things to be edifying and a big part of who they are, you need narratives that reflect that,” opined Duke.
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