The importance of Black Panther goes way beyond a Rotten Tomatoes score, its box office gross, and how it links up with Avengers: Infinity War.
The cultural ramifications of Ryan Coogler’s blockbuster and the performances of Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, and Michael B Jordan are destined to be felt for many years to come, as audiences look set to embrace the diversity and authenticity that makes “Black Panther” feel so rich, distinctive, and original.
I recently had the opportunity to talk to Michael B Jordan over the phone about his performance as the villainous Erik “Killmonger” Stevens in “Black Panther,” where he touched upon the importance of the film for African American audiences, and beyond.
“I understand the importance of representation. You want to be able to identify with not just yourself but people you look like on screen who are these characters and these roles and larger than life heroic superheroes.”
Jordan, whose character travels to Wakanda to try and dethrone Chadwick Boseman’s titular hero, knows this because he’d love to have seen a film like “Black Panther” when he was younger. And now that he is starring in such a film he wants it to provide inspiration to those that watch it.
“As a 10-year-old I would have been motivated and inspired and had a range of emotions if I had watched this as a kid.”
“We’ve got to help these kids dream. And to help their imagination so that they can see themselves in front of the camera and on screen like this.”
“It really makes an impact on how they hold themselves and the confidence that they have. To be involved in that feels really good.”
But while Jordan acknowledges the importance of “Black Panther,” this wasn’t a subject he talked about with co-writer and director Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station,” “Creed”) during production.
Mostly because Jordan, who has now collaborated with Coogler on all three of his films, had nothing but faith in his good friend.
“We really didn’t talk about it all that much. We kind of already knew what we were doing at this point. Representation and identity, and themes like that, we understand that part of it. When it came down to it all of the work was already done and we were just interested in shooting a movie.”
For Jordan, though, “Black Panther” should just be the beginning. Because he expects, nay demands, further blockbuster films with ethnically diverse casts and crews to follow the path paved by the superhero film.
“I definitely feel like this is the time for it and that ‘Black Panther’ is going to open up the floodgates. We have been having this conversation a lot.”
“Especially being backed by a studio like Marvel, we have the support of the biggest studio in the world. But it’s also the cast, and not just that everything is going to be OK but it is going to be awesome. All of that gives a validation to a property like this.”
“Because there’s a lot of things going on in our film. I just want people to go in there with an open mind and have some fun. Then, I guarantee they will leave it with something more than they didn’t really expect.”
Audiences can bask in the glory of “Black Panther” when it is released on February 16