Marvel’s BLACK PANTHER Screenwriter Talks “Historic Opportunity,” Wakanda, And More

Marvel’s BLACK PANTHER Screenwriter Talks “Historic Opportunity,” Wakanda, And More

Hit the jump to find out how Marvel will go about bringing Wakanda to life both scientifically and historically, among other things Black Panther-related, from screenwriter Joe Robert Cole

Exactly two years from today, Marvel Studios will finally release the Black Panther movie in theaters with Creed director Ryan Coogler at the helm, and star Chadwick Boseman returning as the titular prince after he debuts this summer in Captain America: Civil War. The 2018 adaptation has been dubbed a “big geopolitical action adventure,” per producer Kevin Feige, but we now have some great insight from the screenwriter, Joe Robert Cole.
“Having gone through the [Marvel] writer program, I knew Black Panther was in the pipeline and I knew they were big fans of my writing,” said Cole when Mother Jones asked how the gig came about. “But I had to compete with the other writers who were put up for it—no one hands out jobs. [The writing program] familiarized Marvel with my work and with me as a person. Being able to interact with Kevin Feige and have him know who I am and know me as a person, and be able to then sit down and have a conversation about story with someone who's familiar and comfortable is invaluable.” About writing a black superhero in his own movie, Cole explained, “Black Panther is a historic opportunity to be a part of something important and special, particularly at a time when African Americans are affirming their identities while dealing with vilification and dehumanization. The image of a black hero on this scale is just really exciting. When I was a kid, I would change superheroes' names: Instead of James Bond, I was James Black. Instead of Batman, I was Blackman. And I have a three-year-old son. My son will be five when Black Panther comes out. That puts it all into perspective for me.”
When asked about the themes that he wants Black Panther to explore, and whether or not that would include the history and the myths of the African continent, Joe Robert Cole said he, director Ryan Coogler, and Marvel Studios are still “in the process of figuring many of those things out.” However, the screenwriter assured that he thinks “approaching the movie from a perspective that is rooted in the cultures of the continent is important.” Furthermore, when asked how current events and police brutality in the black community might inform T’Challa’s solo story, which is said to be linked to the Avengers: Infinity War, Cole said that he, the director, and executive producer Nate Moore are all “cognizant of what's going on in the world, in black communities, and in our country.” He continued, “We are aware of the importance of that, and the platform this movie provides us with.”

Considering he and Ryan Coogler are both African-American, Joe Robert Cole was then asked how they plan to do the African superhero and his culture justice on the big-screen. “I write characters focusing on them as human beings, and then you wrap them within a culture,” he assured. “So I think I can connect with him as a person with brown skin who's viewed differently by the world. In terms of his culture, we're thinking about where we are locating Wakanda within the continent, and what the people and history of that region are like. It's a process of investigation to help inform the story at this point. But we are going to be engaged with consultants who are experts on the continent and on African history and politics.” When asked how Black Panther will portray Wakanda’s advanced technology without westernizing the culture, Cole enthused, “That's one of the many questions that excite me. I think you try to extrapolate from the early civilizations and cultures of the continent, kind of looking for unique ways they set themselves apart from Western civilizations, and then pursue those avenues technologically and see where that takes you.” Finally, the writer was asked if he worries Black Panther will get dismissed as being for black audiences solely. “I don't think so,” he replied. “There is a huge fan base for the Black Panther comic and for Marvel as a whole. And I think there is great anticipation across the board for the movie. I think that's how Marvel’s approaching it and I know that's how I'm approaching it. I imagine Ryan feels the same way.”

After Chadwick Boseman debuts as T'Challa in Captain America: Civil War on May 6, 2016, the future king of Wakanda will return in the Ryan Coogler-directed Black Panther  movie, possibly co-starring Ernie Hudson as T'Chaka, on February 16, 2018.

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