Chadwick Boseman Promises No "Damsels In Distress" In 'Black Panther' [Set Visit Interview]

In the two years since we met Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, we've only grown more eager to get to know him. And when we spoke with Chadwick Boseman on the set of Black Panther in early 2017, he sounded pretty eager to show the world what T'Challa's made of.

As we saw in Civil War, T'Challa is a hero burdened by grief and responsibility. But Black Panther also shows him as a loving brother, a devoted son, and a loyal friend. He is even, occasionally, a guy who cracks some jokes.

Which suits Boseman just fine. He likes a "challenge" in his projects, he told our group of reporters – and the role of a young conflicted king offers plenty of meat in that regard.

Note: This was a group interview conducted in a press conference format with assembled journalists.

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So does T'Challa feel more like a king or more like Black Panther?

At the beginning of this movie, I think neither. Neither. He's been Black Panther before, but I would say at the beginning of this movie he's dealing with – it's shortly after Civil War has ended, so he's still mourning. There's unrest in Wakanda. So what he's dealing with is being the king, is making the transition to filling the footsteps of his father. So it's probably going to feel like it's more about the political unrest than the superhero, initially. I don't know if that answers your question or not.

What's the learning curve for going from being Black Panther or just being Wakandan royalty to becoming the king?

He's been prepared for it his whole life. He's groomed, so to speak, to do it. I think it's just the mental transition and it does not help that – like, if his father had decided that he was going to step down, I'm too old, I can't do it anymore, then that would be a different scenario. But because he died in the last movie, I think the transition has to do with that mourning process. He's been groomed to do it.

Is approaching this role different than working on Civil War? I'm curious if there is kind of a deeper understanding that you're getting out of the character, versus when you were first preparing originally?

I mean, yeah, obviously. Not to say that there wasn't a deep understanding, but some of the things that we came to an understanding of we couldn't show in the last one, so it gives it a chance to marinate. And those certain things that we were unsure about, now we're 100% sure about. Like even down to accent and how you walk, or what his sense of humor is, which actually develops more in this movie because in the last movie he was pretty focused on what he had to do so there was no time to make any jokes. But in this one, you're sort of seeing him around in his more natural environment and around people that he knows. So you are different according to the people you are around.

What's the fall out for T'Challa, both personally and from the rest of Wakanda, for not taking vengeance? Because it was obviously a very conscious decision, it was a major decision for him to not take vengeance there in Civil War for his father.

The fallout?

Yeah. What can you say about it, both internally for T'Challa and then just kind of how other people are viewing that?

Fallout is a really strong word, but maybe that's because it's me. You don't want to criticize yourself. But anytime a leader dies, to be general and not give away story, there's going to be political unrest. And the fact that it's not unlike our world, where you will have one political party sort of – not to be specific about that – one political party sort of point the finger at someone for being soft or not being tough enough when it comes to their foreign policy or that type of thing. So that would be the best way to describe it. But is it complete unrest where he can't overcome it? I wouldn't go that far.

For him internally, do you feel that T'Challa is comfortable with the choice he made?

The choice he made in Civil War? Yes. I think he is comfortable with the final choice, that final choice. Yes.

When T'Challa showed up in Civil War, the fan reaction was just so huge. Did seeing that reaction, how excited people were over getting to meet this character, impact how you approached this movie in anyway?

No. No. Because I'm not saying I expected the fan reaction to be what it was, but to a certain degree, I'm unaware of the fan reaction. That's number one. [Looks at journalist] He's like – you don't believe me.

I don't want to believe you. The #BlackPantherSoLit hashtag.

Yeah, see ... I see it, you know, I see certain things. But I see it in a different way because it's important for me to not look at everything that's happening, so I see it because some stuff is impossible to not see. But there's a certain removal I have to have from it in order to play it, because you have people saying, It's got to have this or It's got to have that. And if I was to follow their thoughts from the last one, it would've been a lot of stuff that was wrong. So I think you kind of have to stay in it in a way, where your decisions are made based upon the things that are organic. There's a lot of storytellers here. All of the different departments are all storytellers.

And so you're collaborating with them more so than you can the audience. You are collaborating with the audience, but it's not like – if I was doing a play and I'm onstage with somebody and the audience responds, we get that direct [snaps]. I know that that worked because you responded to it. But between blogs and this and that and journalists, it's like, you can't really put your foot in that. So I would say no. It's the fact that now, in this case, you have a new director that's building on the steps of previous directors, and writers and new writers. It's the baby of Stan Lee and [Kevin] Feige. There's so many other factors that come into play, various different writers and various different versions of the character, so it's a lot of stuff to put in that you are being influenced by.

How did collaborating with Ryan [Coogler] shape the way you saw Black Panther and his story? Did you look at the character differently after he came onboard and you started talking about the character? Did it refine the way you look at him?

I think we have very similar views anyway. That's one of the reasons why – it's like, they put us together – like, have you ever dated somebody and somebody was like, you're really going to like this person? It's kind of like that. So we have very similar views about what things should be like and the things that we usually have a difference of opinion about, it's so minute what those differences are, that I think it's more of a growth because there's nobody battling you. We're constantly building on each other, so it's been a good marriage so far.

Black Panther

In previous roles, we've seen you as Jackie Robinson and James Brown and soon to be Thurgood Marshall. How did you prepare for this role mentally and physically compared to those roles? Because you were playing historical figures, was there a weight was lifted because you didn't have to tell somebody's story and their truth?

It's like putting down one and picking up another one. I think the preparation is basically the same. And the different genres feed on each other. Like, I just played Thurgood Marshall before I came into this, and there was a certain amount of freedom that I felt going into that, having played this. If I had gone from Jackie Robinson to James Brown to Thurgood Marshall, that – but playing something like this gives you a certain amount of freedom. And then going back to this from that that, it gives you a certain amount of weight, I think. So I think they help each other.

Really, playing Thurgood Marshall is preparation for this. It's like you see a comedian before he does his big HBO or Showtime or whichever special, he will be in LA and in New York doing like small little comedy clubs. That's kind of what it's like. Once you've done Civil War, you can't really stop training for this. I can't have the same body for Thurgood Marshall as I do for this, so you have to tone that down. [Laughs] But he was with me when I was doing Thurgood Marshall. He's training me while I'm doing Thurgood Marshall, working with Marrese Crump while I was doing Thurgood Marshall. So it's like you carry those things with you, because you know you're about to go into the next thing. So it kind of never stopped.

Infinity War is in production right now, and I'm curious how that's affecting you schedule wise. Are you going to be doing this for now and then focusing on that later, or how does that schedule work?

They told you couldn't ask me that. [Laughs] I don't know nothing about that.

What draws your story and what fascinates you about being a part of the Marvel family now?

Well, one, I mean, they have a good batting average in terms of successful films and films that people love. And to be specific about this film and this character, it's just a good character. It's an interesting character. Because if it was somehow not as good as it is, I wouldn't want to do it. Just because it's Marvel, it doesn't mean you want to do it. They tend to be offering people stuff that's interesting and good and wanting to push envelopes in certain places. So this one, I think, is obviously, you've never seen a movie like this before. So it's just cool. For me, every project has to be something that's challenging and cool and that's a challenge for me. It keeps me interested. So that's all that really matters. And this is definitely one of them.

Can you talk about the female characters that you're playing with? So Danai [Gurira] to Lupita [Nyong'o]'s character, to your younger sister, they're all very strong, very valuable women to –

Shoot, you're telling me about it. [Laughs]

Can you talk about what you think that each of those characters bring to your character and what makes him better?

Hm. That's a loaded question right there. I've got to watch you. I think the first one I'm going to talk about is actually Shuri, played by Letitia [Wright]. That character, to have a little sister – it's not very often that you see a superhero with a little sister. So I think that is probably not going to occur to people, but – it's not unheard of, but it's an unusual thing. So I think it brings out a different part of his character. Usually you have the damsel in distress. I don't think there are any damsels in distress in this movie. That doesn't exist in this movie. Like you say, all these characters are strong. Even if it's not a physical prowess, there is a mental prowess. It's intelligence and savvy and so all of them present that. But the one that stands out the most actually is Shuri, because of the way a little sister can poke at you, and you're protective of her but she still thinks she's your mother, like all those different things. And the actress has those qualities. I think she just makes you happy as soon as you see her. Everyday she comes in and you're like, "Oh shoot, it just changed my attitude about everything." So I think that's the one that stands out the most.

Obviously, you have Angela Bassett here. She's incredible to watch and again, she's always really strong. I would say in this movie, because my father is dead, it gives me the opportunity to look to her for wisdom, and I think it shows the matriarchal African society in doing that. So she's an advisor that I would go to. And it's a close relationship, it's not just like she's my mother. She's on the side, she's not a figurehead mother.

And to have Lupita and Danai, I'm not going to really talk about their characters too much. But just to have them here, I mean, it's just a beautiful thing. I love them as actresses. They challenge the director every day. He's like, "They're getting in me." So they challenge him every day, and they bring those same challenges that their characters have. They sort of attack T'Challa in the same way. They're not afraid to challenge him. So I think it's cool to have conflict that's not I'm going to kill you conflict. You need other types of conflict to bring out other parts of your character. So I think the fact that they present conflict without being enemies, in most cases, then that's a cool thing.

I wanted to just talk really quick about T'Challa's love life. The history in the comics, it's been rather complicated and sparse. So is there going to be any kind of romantic arc for T'Challa in this film?

You all just tag-teamed me, right? [Laughs] If he doesn't answer that I'm just going to go straight to it. Okay, cool.

Okay. Can we say this, is somebody going to be moved this time? Because we would love to see that.

To be what?

"Or you be moved"? We would love to see that.

Yeah, yeah. I would say yeah. You're talking about Ayo. Ayo's character. Yeah.