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Welcome to Wakanda: Meet the Characters of Black Panther

KWAKU ALSTON/© MARVEL STUDIOS 2018

Welcome to Wakanda: Meet the Characters of Black Panther

Entertainment Weekly just released its special Comic-Con issue this week, and who is gracing the cover? Why the totally bad-ass cast of Marvel’s Black Panther. Inside this week’s issue, EW gives us a good look at T’Challa/Black Panther, Wakanda, and the other notable citizens living in it. Geez louise, is it February yet?!

Since Wakanda and Vibranium were first mentioned years ago in the MCU, Marvel fans have been aching to visit the fictional African country — mostly because of who currently rules it. Black Panther is probably the most recognizable black hero in the Marvel Comic Universe besides Storm from the X-Men. We got our first taste of the character when he got his backdoor origin story told during Captain America: Civil War, and we at Legion of Leia loved every second of him.

According to EW, Black Panther will explore a threat from both inside Wakanda and outside. Wakanda has never been conquered because of its ability to keep outsiders in the dark about its treasures and technological advancements made with Vibranium. However, that sense of security may all come crashing down soon.

Lupita Nyong’o’s character Nakia is a covert agent whose job is to keep Wakanda’s vital secrets from leaking out. She does so by hunting down her country’s enemies with deadly force.

One such foe is Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger, a Wakadan dissident who is colluding with Andy Serkis’ Ulysses Klaue, a Vibranium poacher whom we’ve already met in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

On top of all that, T’Challa also has to deal with civil unrest among the tribal leaders of Wakanda whose isolationist views clash with the young king’s ideas to engage more with the outside world.

With Klaue and Killmonger joing forces, T’Challa already faces an ominous external threat, but there is also unrest among the tribal leaders of Wakanda, who fear the young king is repeating his father’s mistakes by engaging too much with the outside world.

“In this movie, a lot like politics, it’s a little tricky to define who’s [a good guy],” said director and co-writer Ryan Coogler (Creed). “The film very much plays with those concepts, looking at conflicts and different motivations, and who’s with who.”

“What I think we landed on was sort of a cross between James Bond and The Godfather,” executive producer Nate Moore told EW. “A big, operatic family drama centered on a world of international espionage. So hopefully we’re getting the best of both worlds.”

Look for new portraits and film images, details from EW’s set visit, and Q&As with the cast on their website over the next few days. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of your own from newsstands near you. Now, let’s take a closer look at the forces at play here in Black Panther. 

T’Challa

Welcome to Wakanda: Meet the Characters of Black Panther

Kwaku Alston / Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER

“What makes him different from other superheroes first and foremost is he doesn’t see himself as a superhero,” said director and co-writer Coogler. “He sees himself as a politician. That’s the first thing on his mind when he wakes up in the morning. ‘How am I going to fulfill my duties as king of this place?’”

In other words, T’Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman) is a king/leader first and a superhero second. He needs to keep his countrymen happy while also maintain peace among the many political factions with many clashing points of views.

“He has to keep harmony between the tribes within his country, and that means managing expectations and doing things that are unpopular,” Coogler says. “At the same time, he is the protector of that nation.”

Ramonda

Welcome to Wakanda: Meet the Characters of Black Panther

Kwaku Alston / Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER

Angela Bassett costars as Ramonda, mother of the king.

“She is one of the advisors that he would look to,” star Chadwick Boseman said to EW. “He has to look to her for some of the answers of what his father might want or might do. She may not be exactly right all the time, but she definitely has insights. She is the queen mother. And she’s that for not just him, but for everybody.”

“She’s has her hands in everything,” Bozeman laughed, “Even his love life.”

Nakia

Welcome to Wakanda: Meet the Characters of Black Panther

Kwaku Alston / Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER

“The one thing I will say about all the female characters in this movie is that they are very strong,” Boseman said. “It’s a very matriarchal society.”

One of them is Wakanda’s undercover operative Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), whom we mentioned earlier. She may actually be the closest thing to James Bond in this movie, and that’s badass! She also used to be T’Challa’s lover.

“She is a departure from what she was in the comic book,” Nyong’o said. “Nakia is a war dog. She is basically an undercover spy for Wakanda. Her job is to go out into the world and report back on what’s going on.”

Nakia also wields some unique weaponry. “We call them her ring blades,” said Moore. “The ones Lupita carries while in the green outfit are based on traditional African weaponry. However, she does get a hi-tech upgrade later in the film, compliments of Shuri.”

Speaking of Shuri…

Shuri

Welcome to Wakanda: Meet the Characters of Black Panther

Kwaku Alston / Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER

Letitia Wright plays T’Challa’s kid sister, who is someone you don’t want to meet in the heat of battle. “She is also a genius and runs the entire Wakandan design group,” said producer Kevin Feige. “She’s responsible for all these amazing technological advances that Vibranium has brought about from Wakanda.”

Shown in the picture above, Shuri sports a pair of panther-shaped gauntlets. We’re not sure what they do, but getting hit by one of them looks like it’ll hurt…a lot.

Okoye

Welcome to Wakanda: Meet the Characters of Black Panther

Kwaku Alston / Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER

Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead) plays the head of the Dora Milaje, the all-female special soldiers unit that protects the kingdom (and its king) from harm.

“They are a very powerful force,” Gurira said about Wakanda. “They are not utopic, but what Wakanda has down well is it has allowed people to function within their strengths. These women, their strength is to preserve Wakanda. It’s more like the secret service in a sense that it’s not just military. She is head of intel.”

As the head of such a prestigious security organization, Okoye will naturally feel guilt over the previous king’s death, which occurred during the events of Captain America: Civil War. She has a generally stoic presence, but she’s not  devoid of feeling or personality. “She can be serious, but she also has an unexpected sense of humor,” Gurira said. “She has a heart, but for her country and for her people. She’s not a person who doesn’t connect to human beings as a result of what she does.”

Erik Killmonger

Welcome to Wakanda: Meet the Characters of Black Panther

Kwaku Alston / Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER

In the comics, Killmonger was once a Wakandan known as N’Jadaka. He changed his name to something more on-the-nose when he became a dissident, then an exile, from his homeland.

Michael B. Jordan’s iteration of Killmonger is only one of the main antagonists of the film. He allies himself with the mercenary Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) in hopes of overtaking T’Challa and becoming the new ruler of Wakanda.

“I think Killmonger has his own opinion on how Wakanda has been run and should run, and what I think Michael brings to the table is sort of a charming antagonist, who doesn’t agree with how T’Challa is running things, frankly,” said Moore. “I think that puts T’Challa in a difficult situation. Killmonger is a voice of a different side of Wakanda.”

W’Kabi

Welcome to Wakanda: Meet the Characters of Black Panther

Kwaku Alston / Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER

Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya plays T’Challa’s best friend, who is also a member of one Wakanda’s most vital groups in the nation.

“W’Kabi is the head of security for the Border Tribe,” says Moore. “They live on the borders of Wakanda and serve as the first line of defense for the country.”

In other words, W’Kabi and his people help maintain a guise to trick outsiders that Wakanda is just another third-world African country made up of mines, farms, and woods.

“To outsiders they appear to be what people would ‘expect’ of a small provincial African nation – but the truth is they are some of the fiercest warriors in Wakanda, intent on protecting the secrets of their advanced nation at all costs,” Moore said.

Now that T’Challa is king, W’Kabi is asked to join him as a palace advisor.

Zuri

Welcome to Wakanda: Meet the Characters of Black Panther

Kwaku Alston / Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER

Forest Whitaker plays a shaman and longtime advisor to T’Challa’s father. He’s also the keeper of the Heart-Shaped Herb, a plant that grows only in Wakanda and absorbs the Vibranium-rich minerals. When the herb is consumed, it gives the person superhuman strength. This probably explains how T’Challa gets his powers to become Black Panther.

“He’s somewhat a religious figure or spiritual figure,” Coogler says of Zuri. “Spirituality is something that exists in Wakanda in the comics, and it’s something we wanted to have elements of in the film. Forest’s character, more than anything, is a major tie-back to T’Challa’s father. Zuri is someone he looks to for guidance.”

Source: Entertainment Weekly

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Christina E. Janke

Christina is the co-host of “Intro to Geek” on Shauncastic and Editor-in-Chief at Agents of Geek. Her love of all things Mass Effect knows no bounds. She also carries an obsession with comic books, video games, and quirky television shows. Her heroes are Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Gail Simone. She hopes to be just like them when she grows up.

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