The Black Panther was always a favorite among comic aficionados, but who would have predicted the widespread mainstream appeal that it would go on to have? The 2018 superhero flick has since gone on to become one of the highest grossing films in U.S. history. Despite its ascent to the top of the box office, there are still plenty of things you may not know about the movie and its charismatic protagonist. And as someone new pounces into the role in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, allow us to enlighten you on the iconic hero...
1. Historic origins
Lest you think Black Panther is a relatively new creation, the character first appeared as early as 1966. That year saw him debut in issue 52 of Fantastic Four – ultimately becoming the very first American superhero to be of African ancestry in a popular comic. Needless to say, his inclusion turned out to be a major success.
2. Knit one for yourself
Like the look of Nakia’s green scarf in Black Panther? Well, you’re not alone. In fact, such was the fanfare surrounding the piece of headware that the film’s costume designer Ruth E. Carter revealed the pattern, thus enabling fans to create their own scarf. Evidently, the Jeff Gillies design proved to be a winning one with audiences.
3. Failed first attempt
Did you know that there was a Black Panther movie in the works almost three decades before the Ryan Coogler-directed effort? That’s right, and it was all set to star Blade badass Wesley Snipes in the lead role, too. Sadly for him, the project failed to entice studios at the time to take a chance on it.
4. Not his first cinematic appearance
Although it’s Black Panther’s first time in the lead role, it’s not his first when it comes to on-screen appearances. No, the character’s actually been popping up in movies and shows since the mid-’90s – most notably in the Fantastic Four cartoon, scoring a small part in an X-Men episode, and perhaps most impressively in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.
5. Long hours in the makeup chair
Spending hours in makeup isn’t uncommon, but the warpaint needed for Killmonger in Black Panther did spawn a rather peculiar ritual in order to facilitate its removal. After three hours in the makeup chair – as well as a full day of shooting for the film – actor Michael B. Jordan was then required to sweat off the cosmetics by sitting in a sauna.
6. Back to the past
If you’re a fan of the Back to the Future franchise then you may’ve noticed a neat little nod to it in Black Panther. When Shuri shows our hero the many items she has to offer him, she mentions some self-lacing shoes that were inspired by a film her father always watched. The movie in question? None other than Back to the Future Part II which featured the fictional self-lacing Nikes.
7. Moving to the rhythm
Sometimes, to find the spirit of the character you’re portraying, you have to go completely outside the realms of acting. The cast and crew of Black Panther certainly did this. They even played around with African drums in an effort to influence their characters’ movements and mannerisms.
8. No stunt doubles needed
We sometimes think of actors as being wrapped in cotton wool, but the same can’t be said for the cast of Black Panther. Many of the stunts were performed by the actors themselves after they followed an intensive boot camp program.
9. There can be only one
We’ve talked a lot about the Black Panther character, but we’d be remiss not to mention how effortlessly Chadwick Boseman portrayed him. Clearly, the execs at Marvel Studios felt the same way, as it was revealed that Boseman was actually the only performer they considered for the part.
10. Merging reality and fiction
If you’ve dug into the credits of this box-office blockbuster, then you’ll be well aware that T’Chaka is played by John Kani. But who’s the person that plays the younger T’Chaka during flashbacks? Well, that’s actually Kani’s real-life son, Atandwa. Now there’s a father-son combo if ever there was one!
11. Speaking in tongues
Thought the language they were talking in Wakanda was just gibberish? Wrong. It’s called Xhosa and it’s 100% real. In fact, it’s one of the official languages of South Africa with more than 19 million people in the country speaking it. However, with its elaborate click consonants, it certainly wasn’t the easiest dialect for the talent to learn. So while Wakanda definitely isn’t real, Xhosa most certainly is.
12. Props galore
The production crew on Black Panther went to painstaking lengths to capture the essence of genuine geographical locations – particularly when it came to the creation of Warrior Falls. In order to replicate the rocks at Oribi Gorge in South Africa, 25,000 cubic feet of foam was carved, sculpted and reshaped to get the desired effect. Yikes!
13. Clever celluloid Easter egg
One thing that fans of the comics really appreciated in the movie was its loving nod to the past. While the film can flesh out every little detail in the character’s history, the name of the mountain where Shuri has her lab – Mount Bashenga – comes from the name of the original Black Panther: Bashenga. Neat!
14. Saddling up for the part
Actor Daniel Kaluuya took the reins of his character W’Kabi very seriously. Yes, since he was required to ride a rhino in the film, it became clear that he would need to have the skills for it. The solution? Getting him to learn to ride a horse.
15. These aren’t the braids you’re looking for
The Star Wars series isn’t light years away from superhero movies when it comes to similarities. So when actress Letitia Wright rocked up to the set of Black Panther coincidentally sporting a hairdo similar to Princess Leia, the natural response would be to keep the ’do intact. Director Ryan Coogler felt the same way, which is why he left it alone. This homage to the popular sci-fi franchise was made all the better by the fact that it wasn’t even intentional!
16. Bringing everything to the table
Diversity played an important role in the ethos of Black Panther, even stretching all the way to the very professions of some of the stars in the motion picture. The ranks of the Dora Milaje, for example, comprised women from all walks of showbiz life – not just actors but dancers and stunt women, too.
17. Successful online campaign
“Representation is fundamental for our children of color. The opportunity to see themselves as superheroes, royalty, and more is truly essential to dreaming big.” Those were the words of a GoFundMe campaigner who started a fundraiser for children in Harlem to see Black Panther. And the campaign was a big success, with celebrities such as Travis Scott, Serena Williams and Kendrick Lamar all making donations.
18. Hairy dilemma
Actor Danai Gurira most likely jumped at the chance to portray Okoye in Black Panther, but there was one thing she was initially skeptical about: the fact that she had to shave her head. Regardless, Gurira went through with the drastic change and actually ended up finding her new hairstyle empowering.
19. More than just colors…
As you’ve probably realized by now, Black Panther is littered with winking references and easy-to-miss Easter eggs. But did you know that these stretched right to the very end? Yes, the main actors’ names appear in the movies’ end credits in the color of their respective tribes. Talk about attention to detail!
20. …Just like the clothes
Speaking of attention to detail, the end credits are not the only time when color is an underlying theme. If you check out the colors sported by the protagonists in the casino brawl, you’ll notice that they are red, black and green – the same colors that combine to make up the Pan-African flag.
He was a hero
It’s safe to say, then, that Chadwick Boseman was a hero in the eyes of his fans. Before his untimely passing in 2020, the beloved actor had always tried to be a positive influence, even before he stepped into the role of the iconic superhero. Even though he was a complete unknown at the time he was cast in his first big role in All My Children, that didn’t stop him pointing out to the producers that the part he had been given played to certain preconceptions. And unfortunately for Boseman, his opinions cost him his job.
A super coincidence
Naturally, Boseman’s career didn’t end up suffering too badly, as he was later chosen to front his very own superhero blockbuster. But, coincidentally, Black Panther saw him share the screen with the very man who’d ended up replacing him on All My Children. Yes, following Boseman’s dismissal, the soap opera’s producers recast the part and gave it to none other than a young Michael B. Jordan.
No hard feelings
Thankfully, there were apparently no hard feelings between Boseman and Jordan. In fact, during a 2019 interview conducted as part of Black Panther’s Oscar campaign, the pair were seemingly more than happy to discuss their soap opera beginnings. And as it happened, Boseman had worked long and hard to get to where he is today.
A high-profile coach
Yet initially Boseman had focused his attention behind the scenes. He had started working towards a career in the entertainment industry at a young age, penning and putting on his very first play, Crossroads, while still just a junior in high school. Then, after that, he had gone on to study directing at Washington’s Howard University, where he had been coached by The Cosby Show’s Phylicia Rashad.
Honing his craft
Boseman honed his craft further at London’s British American Drama Academy and the Digital Film Academy in New York. He even took up teaching, earning a position as a drama instructor in the Schomburg Junior Scholars Program. And impressively, Boseman picked up a Joseph Jefferson Award nod in the New Work category for his 2006 production Deep Azure.
Making his mark
Then, in 2008 the future star decided that he belonged in front of the camera, and so he relocated to Los Angeles to pursue his acting ambitions. By this point, mind you, he had already made several appearances on screen. In 2003, for instance, Boseman had guested on an episode of firefighting drama Third Watch; he also later showed up in procedurals such as CSI: NY and Law & Order.
Portraying a legend
But audiences really began to take note of Boseman when he landed recurring parts in TV shows such as Lincoln Heights and Persons Unknown. And on the big screen, his career truly began to blossom. After making his film debut in 2008’s The Express: The Ernie Davis Story, Boseman won rave reviews for his portrayal of baseball legend Jackie Robinson in 2013 biopic 42.
Another real-life hero
Unsurprisingly, the critical acclaim led to several other high-profile roles. Boseman went on to star alongside Kevin Costner in NFL drama Draft Day, for example, while he depicted another real-life hero, James Brown, in Get On Up. And in 2016’s Gods of Egypt, he arguably stole the show as Egyptian deity Thoth.
A legendary role
That same year, Boseman became the latest Hollywood star to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe when he was cast as Black Panther – a.k.a. T’Challa. He first portrayed the character in Captain America: Civil War before later joining Black Widow, Spider-Man and The Hulk in the third and fourth Avengers movies. And, of course, in 2018 Boseman got the chance to headline his own superhero movie.
A colossal success
Said film, Black Panther, turned out to be a colossal success. Raking in more than $1.35 billion at the international box office, it became the ninth greatest-earning movie in history. Even more impressively, the blockbuster became the first-ever Marvel outing to pick up a nomination for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
An action thriller
Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Boseman and director Ryan Coogler have signed up for a Black Panther sequel. And in the meantime, the actor has reminded everyone that his talents extend beyond the superhero world with a role in thriller 21 Bridges. Soon after that, he also worked with Spike Lee on gritty war drama Da 5 Bloods.
Starting out on soaps
Still, what some fans may not know is that 15 years before fronting his own hit flick, Boseman had landed a recurring role on a daytime soap opera. Yes, that’s right: back in the day, he had started out his career on All My Children. Nevertheless, what should have been a lengthy stint on the series ended up lasting no more than a week.
He knew he'd have to discuss it
And while participating in Black Panther’s Academy Awards promotional campaign in January 2019, Boseman was asked about his short-lived soap experience. “I knew it was gonna happen today!” the star said after the subject first came up in an interview with The Wrap. “I was like, ‘There’s no way in the world it’s not happening today.’”
Playing a troubled teen
The actor had first joined the All My Children cast as Reggie Montgomery – a troubled teen whose initial appearance on screen sees him being tended to at a clinic in the aftermath of a gang fight. And it’s fair to say that the storyline escalated from there.
It didn't sit right
Believing that he’s about to be handed over to the police, Reggie decides to take drastic measures: he holds expectant mother Anna Devane hostage. But while it was certainly a dramatic introduction to the character, it wasn’t one that sat right with the man who was playing him.
Speaking his mind
Yes, Boseman apparently wasn’t impressed that one of the show’s few African-American characters was being portrayed as little more than an everyday thug. And the actor didn’t keep his thoughts to himself, either. Despite the fact that this was his very first TV job, he decided to tell All My Children’s producers exactly where they were going wrong.
He was fired
It perhaps comes as little surprise that the show-runners didn’t take too kindly to receiving criticism from a fledgling actor just one week into his debut gig. But they didn’t just give Boseman a dressing down. In addition, they allegedly decided to fire him and give his part to another budding actor – presumably one whom they thought would be more easygoing.
He tried to make it work
And Boseman told The Wrap why he had taken on the character in the first place. He said, “It’s one of those things where you get a role, and you don’t really know. When I got it, I was like, ‘This is not part of my manifesto. This is not part of what I want to do. How can I make it work?’”
You never know "the full scope"
The Black Panther star continued, “With a soap opera, you don’t know the full scope of what’s gonna happen. You don’t know where they’re gonna take the character, because they don’t always know where the character is going. And because of that, there’s possibly room for me to adjust this and change it and make it so it’s stereotypical on the page but not on the screen.”
A systemic issue
Plus, Boseman acknowledged, even a show as prestigious as The Wire reverted to pigeonholing at times. But even with that said, the actor struggled to justify continuing to play what he considered to be a clichéd character on All My Children. And this left him having to weigh up his options.
The character changed
In his interview with The Wrap, Boseman explained, “I remember going home and thinking, ‘Do I say something to them about this? Do I just do it?’ And I couldn’t just do it. I had to voice my opinions and put my stamp on it. And the good thing about it was [that] it changed it a little bit for [Jordan].”
A proud moment
But Boseman didn't appear to have any major regrets about the way in which he approached the matter with the producers. He seemed rather proud of the outcome, in fact. The star told The Wrap, “[The producers] said, ‘You are too much trouble.’ But they took my suggestions – or some of them. And for me, honestly, that’s what this is about.”
10 years later...
So, while Boseman’s outspokenness may have cost him his first acting job, he seemingly did improve the situation for the actor who went on to replace him as Reggie. And it just so happens that that man would turn out to be one of Boseman’s co-stars in Black Panther more than a decade later.
What a coincidence!
Yes, in a highly coincidental turn of events, Michael B. Jordan was cast as Boseman’s replacement on All My Children. Unlike his predecessor, though, Jordan was already a familiar face to many viewers when he graced the soap. Previously, he’d guested on both The Sopranos and Cosby and had appeared alongside Keanu Reeves in the 2001 sports movie Hardball.
A soap actor
The year before Jordan joined All My Children, he was also seen in The Wire as young drug dealer Wallace. The soap gig proved more enduring, though. While Jordan only featured in 12 episodes of the highly acclaimed drama, he spent three years among the All My Children cast.
Their shared role
And when The Wrap interviewed Jordan and Boseman together, the conversation somewhat inevitably turned to their shared role. Luckily, Jordan found the inquiry about playing Reggie rather amusing, replying, “This is the first time anyone has ever asked about that! We’ve done this so much, and you’re the guy, you’re the one.”
What did Jordan think?
Then, after hearing how Boseman had inspired producers to modify Reggie’s character, Jordan expressed his gratitude. “That’s awesome to hear,” he told his co-star, adding, “It’s so wild to hear you say that.” And Jordan went on to explain why he hadn’t expressed similar concerns about his role.
He was "still learning"
Jordan told The Wrap, “I’m younger than Chad, and I was coming into All My Children fresh off The Wire – wide open, still learning. I was playing this role not knowing that a lot of the things I was going through were because of what he’d already done for me.”
Their connected past
Jordan even admitted how glad he was that the pair had finally discussed their soap opera past together. He said, “It’s hard to speak in the moment about how things we do can affect other people. But this is a pure example, right here on the spot. We ain’t never talked about this before a day in our lives – to understand how what people do now can directly affect what other people do in the future.”
He hopes they're both making positive change
Touchingly, Jordan then expressed hope that he too is now making a positive change to Hollywood. He said, “The work that we’re doing on Black Panther is hopefully doing the same thing for the next group of actors that are coming up – just like our predecessors opened up doors and made things easier for us.”
His Howard University address
Yet while the Wrap interview may have marked the first time that the pair had spoken about All My Children at the same time, both Boseman and Jordan had previously discussed their soap opera experiences separately. For example, in 2018 Boseman had seemed to reference his one-week stint while delivering his Howard University commencement address.
"Barely a glimpse of hope"
Speaking to a crowd of students, the star had revealed the conflict he had felt about taking on one particular part owing to its unflattering “assumptions about us as black folks.” He added, “The writing failed to search for specificity, plus there was barely a glimpse of positivity or talent in the character – barely a glimpse of hope. I would have to make something out of nothing.”
He grew as an actor
Jordan also spoke more explicitly about his soap days in a 2015 chat with GQ. “I knew that it was a chess move,” he admitted. “You work on a show like All My Children – we know what it is, but you’re still able to grow outside of it. It’s the perfect situation. I learned, I grew as an actor, I worked with professionals [and] I got paid.”
He didn't want to play those roles
Grateful as he was for the part, though, Jordan was keen to point out that he had wanted to distance himself from it as soon as he could. He said, “No dad, no mom, a f**king stereotypical black role in a soap opera. And I saw the stereotype, so moving forward I was like, ‘Nah, those are the roles I don’t want to play.’”
He stuck to his beliefs
Jordan has taken on less stereotypical parts since, of course. Originally, his character in 2012’s Chronicle was even seemingly written for a white actor. The makers of the movie were so won over by Jordan, however, that they gave him the job and amended the name of the man he would be portraying from Steve Kaczynski to Steve Montgomery.
Talent and passion
Jordan has also done his best to increase diversity in the industry. For instance, in 2018 his company, Outlier Society Productions, adopted a more inclusive hiring process. And in a 2015 open letter to Essence, he wrote, “My goal is for my choices and opportunities – as well as those of my fellow actors and actresses of color – to be predicated on our talent, ability and passion and not on false notions of what color an artist must be to play certain roles.”
He's opening doors for other actors
Jordan continued, “I’ve had the honor to portray black characters written and directed by black filmmakers – a privilege that too few actors of color enjoy because of the challenges of black artistry and access behind the camera. But in addition to those wonderful roles, I also want to have the option to play all kinds of parts with no door closed to actors and actresses like myself.”
The challenges he faced
And Boseman also spoke out about the challenges he’s faced as a black actor since his All My Children days. In 2019 he explained to The New York Times, “You’re a strong black man in a world that conflicts with that strength, that really doesn’t want you to be great. So what makes you the one who’s going to stand tall?”
Rivals and friends
Yet although Boseman and Jordan may have been good friends off screen, they played the fiercest of rivals in Black Panther. While Boseman’s character T’Challa was crowned king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda early on in the superhero film, he’s later usurped by Jordan’s villainous Erik Killmonger. Fortunately, the two actors were at least been able to swap roles in real life without seemingly a hint of animosity.