As Marvel’s Black Panther prepares to hit the UK cinemas in less than a weeks, and while Marvel Cinematic Universe films always come highly anticipated, Micheal B Jordan has revealed the depth to which playing Erik Killmonger took him.
There is an extra fervor around director Ryan Coogler’s installment. With a majority-black cast and a striking afrofuturist aesthetic, Black Panther is the world’s first mainstream black superhero movie. Buzz already suggests it’s going to boom at the box office.
Written by Nnedi Okorafor, A Nigerian-American professor, Black Panther arrives in UK cinemas on 13 February.
The first screening reactions are sliding unto social media after the US premiere – spoiler: it’s apparently very good – and early word suggests that Michael Jordan’s mysterious villain Erik Killmonger could be Marvel’s best since Loki. Empireonline caught up with the actor to talk about collaborating with Coogler for a third time, working with T’Challa himself, Chadwick Boseman, and his experience as the villain.
Did you feel the significance of Black Panther being the first mainstream black superhero movie while you were making it?
Yeah, for sure. To be a part of this project and to really be the main example of that representation on this scale, it’s a cool feeling. You’re very proud. You’re really very honored to be a part of that storytelling, that history making. At the same time, in the back of your mind, there’s a pressure to make sure it’s successful so we can see more projects like this.
Ryan Coogler is an incredible leader. He is the perfect person for this job. He’s always constantly working, constantly developing, constantly putting his heart and soul into this project to make sure that it turns out the way it’s supposed to. It’s the perfect storm, honestly – the timing, the cast, the political and cultural temperature right now in the world. Everything adds up to this movie, and I think it’s pretty special.
Playing the villain is a different role for you.
We all have different ideas of what losing yourself in a role is. For me, this is a chance for me to go furthest away from who I am. As far as just the darkness of the guy. Because Erik Killmonger is really dark, even though you empathise with him and understand his point of view. I think that the greatest villains are the ones where you can see their point of view.
How did you get into the psyche of the character?
It took me to a dark place. Honestly, I can’t really go through all I went through to get into it because I want to keep that close to me. But it stuck with me afterwards. You see performances as an actor, and as a fan – you look at Heath Ledger’s performance, say, in The Dark Knight, and it’s like, “Wow.” I want to try to get something like that. You want Michael Fassbender’s Magneto. He does a really good job embodying this character of rage but understanding. It’s a cool juxtaposition.
Tell us about your dynamic with Chadwick Boseman.
Chadwick’s a very talented dude. He’s lived with this character for a movie already. He had to mentally establish who this guy is, and he has that sense of confidence and understanding when he comes on set. There’s definitely an understanding of where we’re both coming from. Of finding out what our characters really want and need.
We had a lot of fun on set. There’s a lot of physical moments, and action sequences throughout this film that caused us to really challenge ourselves, and also fall deeper into character. Chad’s a really talented guy, man, and I had a lot of fun going back and forth with him. Whenever you get a really talented actor on screen and you get the material, the words on the page, the meat on the bones, and you have an incredible director, you find special moments. I think we had a few of those.
Did it feel as though you were making something very special?
Yeah, without a doubt. It all starts from the top [with Ryan Coogler]. He sets the tone, and everybody else falls in line after that. That’s what I’ve been used to dealing with and working with for a while now. He empowers people; there are no dumb questions. The best idea wins. He tries to know as much as possible. Any questions that you have, he’s gonna give you what you need to get back on track. We’re all a relatively new cast. Everybody is pretty much a millennial, for the most part. Smaller things like playing music in between setups, having certain things that breaks the ice, make it so comfortable.
Then, looking around and seeing a majority of black cast is something I haven’t really had too many opportunities of being a part of. That’s another level of like, “Wow, this is crazy, man.” It’s something that you pay attention to.
What are your hopes for the film once it goes out into the world?
I think it’s something for everybody. There’s a love element, there’s pride elements, there’s a family element, there’s an identity element that I think everybody can relate to. I just hope people take away all of those things wrapped in one. It’s an all-black cast for the most part, and it’s set in Africa, but it’s universal in so many ways to everybody around the world, so I feel like it’s something that everybody can take something from. There’s a bit of wish fulfillment and fantasy and action to it. It’s a well-rounded movie, I feel like everybody’s gonna enjoy.