It’s an exciting time to be a Marvel fan. Comic-book aficionados already knew the studio was moving in a terrific direction with Black Panther, its first superhero film toplined by an African character, by tapping Creed filmmaker Ryan Coogler to co-write and direct – but these past few days have been sensational in terms of putting into perspective just how committed Marvel is to populating the pic with strong and thrillingly diverse cast.
12 Years a Slave breakout Lupita Nyong’o signed on in the lead female (not voice-acting!) role, then Creed star Michael B. Jordan came aboard in what’s rumored to be a villainous role. That one-two punch of a casting coup, coupled with a lead performance by Chadwick Boseman proven to be awesome by Captain American: Civil War, set the Internet ablaze.
Now, studio head honcho Kevin Feige is re-emphasizing that the cast being put in place for Black Panther is far and away Marvel’s most POC-oriented to date.
“That will be among the best ensembles we’ve ever had,” Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige recently told The Empire Film Podcast of the film, “and 90 percent of the cast is either African or African-American.”
It makes perfect sense that Black Panther would break down that way, given that its protagonist is the ruler of a technologically advanced African nation called Wakanda. So why is this so exciting to hear stated plainly? A lot of it has to do with Hollywood’s nasty whitewashing problem, most clearly demonstrated recently in wacky misfire Gods of Egypt and (to a lesser degree) Nina Simone biopic Nina.
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Marvel hasn’t been exempt from criticism over its casting calls in the past; it cast the very white Tilda Swinton in the traditionally Asian role of the Ancient One and missed an opportunity to include an Asian superhero by casting Finn Jones as Iron Fist in the upcoming, same-named Netflix series. There’s no way around it: studios balk when it comes to casting actors of color.
In the interview, it was suggested to Feige that Black Panther marks “a huge step for Marvel” in terms of diversity. His response: “It’s a step that Marvel took many years ago in the comics as well, and it felt like it’s more than due time to do that in the movie.”
Amen to that. Black Panther opens Feb. 16, 2018. And with Coogler, Boseman, Nyong’o, Jordan and many more involved, it’s going to kick all kinds of ass.