The actor, starring onscreen next year as comic book s first black superhero, says the timing is right with the current social moment
With Marvel’s Black Panther emerging as one of the most hotly anticipated films to come out of San Diego’s Comic-Con, star Chadwick Boseman sat down with PEOPLE to reveal what bringing the original black superhero to his first solo big screen adventure means to him, especially during the current racially charged mood in American society.
“It’s a lot of different things put together in a way that’s just cool and you’ve never seen before,” Boseman said of the character he introduced on screen in this year’s blockbuster Captain America: Civil War (available on digital HD & Disney Movies Anywhere on Sept. 2, and Blu-ray Sept. 13) and reprising in the solo film scheduled for the fall of 2017. “He has a cool suit, he’s masked, it’s mysterious, he’s a leader, he’s almost like James Bond at times – so it’s so many different things that make you want to play the character.”
Created by the now-iconic Marvel Comics team of writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby exactly 50 years ago at the height of the 1960s civil right movement, the Black Panther was the first-ever mainstream black superhero and an emblem of black pride as the king of the technologically advanced and enlightened African nation of Wakanda, whose intelligence, stealth and fighting prowess and earned him membership of the Avengers (despite the character’s name, there was no association with the militant radical Black Panther Party of the era).
Boseman, 39, said that Marvel’s move to bring more diversity to the roster of champions headlining its movies – also at Comic-Con, Brie Larson was announced as the star of the studio’s upcoming Captain Marvel film – dovetails nicely with the current moment where issues of race are a significant topic in the culture. “Listen, It’s always better to be on time,” nodded Boseman. “I love the fact that you can do art for a real good reason and bring something into the world that needs to be there.
“To some degree, people may say it’s fantasy, but it’s going to ring true to people,” the actor said of Black Panther’s noble and accomplished profile and the achievements of his homeland. “Not just African people and people of African descent, but to all people because they know that we’re living in a world that promotes something that is not balanced. So it brings a bit of a balance back to things.”
Since he debuted the character earlier this year in “Civil War,” Boseman said the audience appetite for more of Black Panther he’s felt has been overwhelming. “People are not even saying they’re hungry – they say they can’t wait,” he chuckles. “‘I can’t wait’ is a whole different level of like, ‘Hurry up, you’re taking too long!’ ” So I definitely feel it.
He’s also looking forward to sharing scenes with the all-star cast filmmaker Ryan Coogler has assembled, including the director’s Creed star Michael B. Jordan (Creed) as the villainous Erik Killmonger,
“I think with Michael, I feel like he’s brought a gravitas to the roles that he’s done,” said Boseman.” I’ve watched him grow from each movie that he’s done. I’m excited about being across from him and just exchanging, just being in my highest state, and him in his highest state, and seeing what that does to me and seeing what it does to him, and it taking us to a different place. So I feel like I have a formable opponent in front of me.”
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“I think being a fan of his for a really long time and knowing him for a over a decade, for us to finally be able to meet on a project where we’re both doing so well for ourselves individually, it’s going to be great to share the screen with him and see what kind of chemistry we get,” Jordan told PEOPLE.
He’s also eager to work with Lupita Nyong’o (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead), who plays members of King T’Challa’s elite, all-female team of bodyguards – and potential wives – the Dora Milaje, or “adored ones.”
“The lioness protects the tribe, actually, so they’re the hunters – they’re the ones who do all the real work, so it reminds me of what a big cat would do,” Boseman explained. “I love that aspect of it. I think it brings so many things to the movie in terms of its African lineage. I think it brings just unpredictability to the fighting style, so much more passion to the fighting style, so much more intellect to the fighting style.
“I’m seeing Lupita with a skill set, and Danai with a skill set, and seeing them fighting for a reason, and it seems so much more formidable and scary than if it was some dude doing it,” he added. “I just imagine times when my mother has had to fight for me, and there’s no way you’re going to stop that. So that being the protection somehow feels much stronger.”
Boseman revealed that acting in the role has left him feeling like a kid who’s so invested in playing out his fantasy adventure he almost, for a moment, believes he’s a superhero.
“You get lost in it, when we’re doing fight scenes or it’s when I have the suit on,” he said. “It’s just when you get lost in it. It’s when you actually believe it, that you’re the character, and that can happen on any day doing anything.”