As an Academy Award winner and someone that’s been in Hollywood since before I was born, interviewing Forest Whitaker was intimidating. I immediately noticed his tall stature and friendly smile when he walked in the room. My mind was full of questions about his role as Black Panther’s Zuri, because it was one of the more mysterious characters in the film. As he took a seat, and started our interview, you could see how down-to-earth he is. Even as a legendary actor, he’s quite humble. Check out the 5 things I learned about his role as Zuri – straight from his #BlackPantherEvent interview.
5 Things I Learned About Black Panther’s Zuri
This is Forest Whitaker’s First Marvel Movie.
Q: What was it like, working on your first Marvel movie?
It was exciting. Because I remember when we were at the Wakanda Falls — it was the (makes sounds like Warrior Falls) — it’s so overwhelming. Because it felt like this hundred-foot waterfall was falling all around us. And this pool of water. And we’re bringing him out, out of this ship, and just, it’s just massive. It’s a very powerful, powerful experience. But when what I did with Chad inside, I really got to the get inside the emotional heart of it, too. So it’s more complete than a lot of other experiences, in some ways, you know.
His African ancestry influenced his portrayal of Zuri.
Q: I know you traced your African ancestry roots to Ghana. Did knowing that influence your portrayal at all?
I guess it did. Yeah. I didn’t fashion it — although, the Jibara tribe, they’re like, the tribe. But, I did fashion around him those two tribes, I fashioned him around different spiritual leaders, and different ways of trying to get like into the moral fiber for the community, because he’s the spiritual leader of Wakanda. So just trying to understand that from different perspectives.
Black Panther Directer, Ryan Coogler, didn’t allow Forest to look at the script at first.
Q: Your character was a part of the plot twist. Did you know that?
When Ryan first gave it to me, they wouldn’t allow me to look at the script. They just would talk about the character and I didn’t really know about the twist then.
He knew the film’s director before signing on to play Black Panther’s Zuri.
Q: Did you see this happening? I could have never dreamt of something like this.
I think that the expression of it, I didn’t imagine exactly, but I think I imagined i — having this kind of magnitude. I think I imagined it that way, not just from the comic book, but when Ryan said he was going to do it, and I had a relationship with Ryan before. So, I knew him as a filmmaker, and as an artist, and I thought that something really special was going to happen. I didn’t know what exactly, but I definitely knew something special was going to happen.
There was a sense of community amongst the actors.
Q: What was it like off camera working with the rest of the cast? In my mind I kind of picture you as the leader.
Wakanda Falls was really interesting, because they were playing music, and the drummers would continue to play a lot between the takes. People would start singing, so it was like, a real communal experience. Even when we weren’t working, a guy would start leading them in songs. And it was something unlike any other.
He likes playing different roles and mixing things up.
Q: This was very different from the other films that you have been on?
I had just finished the film that was about the KKK, and it was a true story. I was doing all my research and learning about what I needed to know to play this preacher. I studied being a preacher, I studied to understand how to express myself. I can’t compare the two experiences. One was like this guy, trying to protect his family in the South while having to deal with this Klansman that he brings into his home. So that becomes a very tight community. Every experience is really different. Every movie that I do, most of the time, is different, and then when it starts to get too similar, then I know that there’s something wrong.
Watch Black Panther’s Zuri in the Official Trailer
Black Panther hits Theaters Everywhere February 16th!
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