What must it be like coming in fresh to one of, if not the, biggest film franchises in the world? Black Panther stars Danai Gurira and Lupita Nyong'o had to deal with not only joining a huge multi-connected universe, but also working alongside Chadwick Boseman’s established superhero T’Challa. For the actors, however, the distance provided by Wakanda worked as a safety net, not a noose, as they explained to me when we sat down to talk about the film.
Lupita Nyong'o, who plays Nakia and is no stranger to big movie properties thanks to her role as Maz Kanata in Star Wars, was only too keen to push the enormity of the universe to one side, saying: “When you’re taking on a project, you can’t really think about the size of the world that has been established.”
In fact, for Nyong'o, the isolated nation of Wakanda, away from the troubles and travails of other MCU heroes and the Avengers, works in her favour when making her presence felt on-screen. “Lucky for us, this is a different area of the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” Nyong'o explains. “So this is our cinematic origin story and we get to determine what it’s going to look like.”
While the characters, rightly, are in the hands of the actors themselves, Nyong'o is also grateful for the role Marvel has to play in the wider context of the MCU: “We just focused on [our own characters] without… thinking about what fits into the larger universe – because that’s Marvel’s job! Ours is to do our bit; tell our story and focus on our characters and that makes it a lot more manageable.”
Someone, somewhere at Marvel HQ is going to be really grateful for all of the extra pressure just heaped upon them. Watch the full interview above to find out what else Nyong'o and Gurira had to say about joining the MCU.
For more Black Panther goodies, check out this Wakandan Easter egg hidden all the way back in Iron Man 2! Now that's called foreshadowing...