Special thank you to Marvel Studios for inviting me on all expense paid trip to the LA premiere – to interview the ‘Black Panther Antagonists’
In order to have a hero, a story needs a villain. The Black Panther antagonists are fully developed characters that challenge the throne and T’Challa’s position as King. Andy Serkis portrays Ulysses Klaue (Klaw), who first appeared in the 2015 film Avengers: Age of Ultron and has returned to reprise the role in the Black Panther. Winston Duke, who plays M’Baku in his first film role – ruler of Wakanda’s mountain tribe – has issues with T’Challas new position of power.
It seemed fitting that we’d have the opportunity to interview both actors together because both characters challenge events in the film. Since we already knew about Klaw’s greed for vibranium, I was interested to see how M’Baku would be featured in the movie (especially with the comic book history). Each character has their own motivation and it’s not easy to define who is a ‘good guy’.
Andy and Winston gave us an inside look at creating these in-depth characters.
The Black Panther Antagonists: Andy Serkis and Winston Duke
Q: What is it like to bring to life these crazy characters that people want to root against on screen?
It’s great fun being able to dip into the dark side, because it in a safe environment. And we work in the world of story where you’re allowed to do that. But what I wanted to do with this character, with Klaw, was not make him in any way a kind of an archetypal villain or considered evil, although of course he is one of the world’s worst, because he is entirely driven by being selfish. I mean he epitomizes in this film he really epitomizes what it is to be ultimately selfish in every aspect of living. He’s a taker, he’s one of the world’s takers, he just grasps and pulls and brings it all to himself. But you kind of to make that character live and be human, I wanted to make him sort of strangely someone you might like to hang out with. And then- and that sort of tension for me is more interesting than playing him as a complete bad ass, you know, who’s just threatening and nasty and you don’t- and then he gets killed and then good. So as an actor you’re wanting to challenge the perception of good and evil. -Andy Serkis, Klaw
Q: Tell us more about your character, M’Baku.
I feel what was a great opportunity for me with M’Baku was I was given the opportunity to create a new language within that world essentially. And the one thing that Marvel did great that really grounded and created a new world, a new life for M’Baku – it was a departure from the comics in a sense that it’s no longer this M’Baku being the leader of this religious minority.He’s not the leader of this religious cult, he’s now the leader of an established grounded tribe. So that gives you a lot more agency, it gives you a lot more presence, it gives you a lot more strength and ability within that world. And creating that society that lives outside of Wakanda proper was something that was really great. -Winston Duke, M’Baku
Q: I love seeing the resolve that your character has at the end, we don’t see what happened, what do you think it was? What brought you out to help?
I think what this film does powerfully is really interrogate a lot of strong questions. For me, the questions are, isolationism. Or going out into the world and this colonial way of thinking. And it’s because those are the only expressions that we’re familiar with. We’re only familiar with taking care of yourself or if we’re going to go out into the world, we’re going to bring ourselves and impose it on others, you know what I mean. So how do we do that in another way, and it’s how do we go out and help people with love. How do we go out and help people and share who we are and what we are, without oppressing them. I don’t know if the the film presents an answer, but it asks you other questions, about how would it look like if you did. Because we’ve only seen it play out these two ways, it’s you stay away from everyone and take care of yourself and enrich yourself, or you go out and you bring yourself and you put it on others and you use terror or you use violence. You use all these isms and put them on people. How do you shape that and what does it look like. M’Baku’s question is, do we stay here, do we stay in these mountains and protect ourselves, and what kind of world are we creating by doing that? Because we also have to live in it. So I think it’s he’s grappling with the larger questions than himself, because he’s realizing I’m part of this big world. And it’s going to come to my doorstep, and it always comes to your doorstep. So how do we go out, how do I go out into Wakanda proper and help initiate change. So I don’t know if it presents an answer, but it does give further question. –Winston Duke, M’Baku
Q: How does it feel to see the fan engagement all over the world, especially with those smaller parts?
Well for me a major thing especially after watching the film last night is an excitement, it’s an excitement to know that people and not adults but children are going to be exposed to narratives like this. Before they’re fully developed and before they’ve ingested and consumed placed narratives, narratives that were formed before they were born about them, and they’re getting to see representations of people who look exactly like them. Before they’re fully formed, which is going to help them see their world differently. It’s going to change their paradigm from a really young age and they’re going to be consuming this in a way that they’re not seeing, I hope a four year old isn’t watching this, even though they might be watching this with an awareness of race. But they might be and that’s just the world we live in. But for them to- if they do have an awareness, a fully developed or an idea of race. That’s exciting. -Winston Duke, M’Baku
Read my Black Panther Review and See it This Friday in Theaters
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