Along with an A-list cast, behind the scenes of Marvel’s “Black Panther” stands Hollywood veterans whose expertise and passion brought to life the story of Wakanda.
Nate Moore, executive producer, and Ruth E. Carter, costume designer, shed light on how the projected blockbuster of the year came to fruition.
“I’m excited for the public to see the film. I’m excited that people will get to experience the film and have their own experience,” Carter said. “As a creator and a designer, when you first see the film, it’s kind of like you’re under siege, like, ‘but where is that?’ And so it’s hard to actually see it.
“But with this one, I enjoyed it,” she said. “I laughed and Shuri’s character was a favorite. I love how my Lupita turned out, she had so many different arcs and levels to her character.”
Carter — a veteran costume designer whose credits include “School Daze,” “The Butler,” “Selma” and two Oscar nominations for Best Costume Design for her work on the films “Malcolm X,” directed by Spike Lee, and “Amistad,” directed by Steven Spielberg — knew it was necessary to incorporate the different cultures within Africa for fictional Wakanda.
“I’m looking at the whole continent and a wide range of people, like the Maasai and the
Suri,” she said. “It all becomes a part of the framework of Wakanda. Most people who read the comic books know Wakanda is a mountainous area, and it’s a secret place that’s not necessarily trading and interacting with the rest of the world. They’re more advanced in technology than other civilizations.
“We are creating that world and trying to create a culture and pride that feels authentic to the specific location,” she said.
Carter said that through her research, she infused a Afro-futuristic model with African culture and came up with ideas that she presented to director Ryan Coogler and the Marvel team.
“In our meetings, Ryan talked about that he wanted it to be this visual feast,” she said.
Coogler also wanted the female characters to be a prominent component of “Black Panther,” a direction that Moore made happen.
“The women came strong intentionally so, Ryan had a very strong specific vision of what Nakia and Okoye could be,” Moore said. “When you cast Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira, that is cemented even more. They took it so seriously because it was personal to them.
“Even on the day when they confront each other, that scene was very powerful even on a blue-screen stage, like, ‘oh this is going to work, these characters are going to resonate,'” he said. “They do steal the movie in a lot of different regards. What I think is great is that they all exist in the same movie and they are all different.
“A lot of times you get one strong female character and that’s cool, then you get three strong female characters, and Ramonda the fourth, just different visions of what it means to be Black and female is really powerful because we don’t get to see that,” Moore said.
As the lone African-American producer in the film division at Marvel Studios, Moore said his proudest moment so far has been the reaction from fans online and the social media hashtag #whatblackpanthermeanstome.
“All of the love we are getting online is kind of surprising and overwhelming which is cool, because people love that trailer, love that poster, but that hashtag and what this movie means to people personally and the notion that it even exists is moving,” he said. “This is going to be important to people in a way that I wasn’t prepared for. I thought that was really powerful.”
In producing the film where the story journeys to America and back to Wakanda, Moore said making the connection between cultures was purposeful.
“Exploring what it means to be African American and disconnected from the culture of Africa is something that Ryan really believed in and was really personal to him,” he said. “That disconnect from your roots is something that’s really interesting. I think we could have told the story of T’Challa and Wakanda and not gone to America, but it would have been a huge missed opportunity, as it speaks to so much of what we all probably have experienced — that separation from where we come form.”