Chadwick Boseman has built his career on his ability to mimic the speech and body language of historic figures, from Jackie Robinson (42) to James Brown (Get on Up) to Thurgood Marshall (Marshall). It’s no surprise then that Boseman put a considerable amount of thought into his portrayal of T’Challa, the protector of the African nation of Wakanda known as the Black Panther, in Captain America: Civil War and the upcoming Black Panther movie.
With no living Wakandan to base his portrayal on, Boseman needed to create his own vision of what a man from a technologically advanced, but isolated, African country might sound like. His solution was to consider how the alternate reality history of the Marvel Universe might have allowed for Wakanda to develop free of the influences of European colonialism.
People think about how race has affected the world. It’s not just in the States. Colonialism is the cousin of slavery. Colonialism in Africa would have it that, in order to be a ruler, his education comes from Europe. I wanted to be completely sure that we didn’t convey that idea because that would be counter to everything that Wakanda is about. It’s supposed to be the most technologically advanced nation on the planet. If it’s supposed to not have been conquered — which means that advancement has happened without colonialism tainting it, poisoning the well of it, without stopping it or disrupting it — then there’s no way he would speak with a European accent.
If I did that, I would be conveying a white supremacist idea of what being educated is and what being royal or presidential is. Because it’s not just about him running around fighting. He’s the ruler of a nation. And if he’s the ruler of a nation, he has to speak to his people. He has to galvanize his people. And there’s no way I could speak to my people, who have never been conquered by Europeans, with a European voice.
Boseman’s first movie under his five-picture deal with Marvel Studios was Captain America: Civil War in 2016. His second will be Black Panther in February 2018, followed by Avengers: Infinity War in May 2018.
Here’s a batch of new character posters for Black Panther: