The royal purple carpet at the recent world premiere of Black Panther in Hollywood was awash in gem tones and African-inspired prints as those privileged to catch the film early adhered to Disney’s “royal attire” dress code.
The lavish event staged on Hollywood Boulevard outside the Dolby Theatre, where the film bowed, took its cues from the movie’s hero – King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), ruler of the fictional African country of Wakanda, who also masquerades as the tech-forward superhero Black Panther.
Ahead of the film’s release, the cast and other members of the Marvel Cinematic Universe took to the carpet to muse about the importance of representation, and why this film couldn’t have come at a better time.
“Being in a Trump era right now, how timely it is to actually see black representation onscreen,” said Denzel Whitaker, who plays Young Zuri in the film. “To see pride onscreen. To see different facets of black culture onscreen. To see us in different representations of intelligence, of power, of presence.”
Oscar-nominated icon Angela Bassett, who plays T’Challa’s mother in the film, and newly minted Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya (who plays W’Kabi) also weighed in on the significance of seeing oneself reflected onscreen.
“It’s always important throughout the end of time,” Kaluuya said simply. “It’s always important for young kids to see themselves.”
“I brought my kids here tonight because I want them to see it,” said Bassett. “Tonight, to see all of this brilliance not only with T’Challa but with his brilliant sister Shiuri (played by breakout actress Letitia Wright) – all of that is inspiration for these kids.”
Laura Harrier, who played Peter Parker’s love interest Liz in last year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, is also happy to both see and be a part of the newfound inclusion in superhero blockbusters.
“That’s what’s been so cool about Marvel right now,” she said. “There weren’t love interests in Spider-Man movies that looked like me until there was me. There weren’t black superheroes (onscreen) until right now. It’s amazing that things are changing and we’re starting to see films reflect modern times.”
On whether she could imagine a Spider-Man/Black Panther crossover in the future, Harrier’s fingers are crossed.
“I hope so and I hope I’m in it. I’d like to see them teaming up, beating the bad guys. Hopefully Liz makes a cameo and she’s in Wakanda too,” she said with a laugh. “Maybe they’ll adopt me, I don’t know.”
Though representation among the superhero canon is certainly long overdue, it would be remiss to attribute T’Challa’s popularity solely to his skin colour. Clark Gregg, who played S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson in the Iron Man films and now on TV’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. agrees that the Black Panther is so much more.
“I’ve gotten to watch all these different chapters play out,” he said. “And yet when I was a kid in the 1970s reading these comics … when we saw Black Panther, it was different. At that time, a lot of the characters that African Americans were playing on TV were pimps.
“And to see this guy that was a king who went to Oxford, who ruled this country and was magnificent … my friends and I really freaked out about this.
“I’m geeking out tonight,” Gregg continued. “This is a very different part of the world and everything about it looks very special.” – Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Service