I was invited on an all expense paid trip by Disney to attend the Red Carpet Black Panther World Premiere. I hope you enjoy my interview with Andy Serkis and Winston Duke.
Newcomer Winston Duke, plays M’Baku and everyone’s favorite villain Ulysses Klaue aka Klaw, played by Andy Serkis contribute so much to the Black Panther film that I can’t imagine it without them. I would never have been able to guess that this was Winston’s first movie ever – he was an absolute natural, and perfectly cast for the role of M’Baku. And what can be said about Andy that we don’t already know? Well, he’s got a lot to say, so be sure to read it all in this interview with Andy Serkis and Winston Duke!
Interview with Andy Serkis And Winston Duke
What is it like to bring to life these crazy characters that people want to root against on screen?
Andy: It is great fun being able to dip into the dark side, because its in a safe environment. We work in the world of story where you’re allowed to do that. 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. In this film he really epitomizes what it is to be ultimately selfish in every aspect of living.
And he’s a taker, he’s one of the world’s takers, he just grasps and pulls and brings it all to himself. To make that character live and be human, I wanted to make him sort of strangely someone you might like to hang out with. That sort of tension for me is more interesting than playing him as a complete bad ass who’s just threatening and nasty. Constantly as an actor you’re wanting to challenge the perception of good and evil.
And I don’t necessarily believe in evil as a concept, we are all on a spectrum of- you can have people who are reformed, you can have people who do terrible things but who can love as well. So it’s trying to be complex and have a good time as well. What was so great about Ryan Coogler is that he allows us as actors to really play and explore the parts and take it places. I’m sure you’ve felt that.
Winston: He (Ryan) just trusts you to work and create your world. And 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, was that 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.
So he (Ryan) does say, hey I’m thinking about this. I kind of want them to have this calm response nature and I want this to be present. You go off and you study this and study that and bring it back and he’s like yeah, cool, I think I’m going to use that, I like that. So he exhibited a lot of trust when it came to us and it was very much a collaborative space. You’d go in there and you’d try some things out and it would work and it felt very safe.#BlackPanther is the first movie @Winston_Duke has starred in. The man has some real talent folks - watch out world, #WinstonDuke has arrived! #BlackPantherEven Click To Tweet
This is my first film, so to feel like I could hold my own and create a space where I felt I had agency as an artist came from Ryan creating a safe space. Ryan creating a safe space and then people like this stewarding me into a world like this where I felt comfortable enough to do my best work, and felt comfortable enough to do work that I’m proud of.
Were any of your lines ad-libbed, because some of them really tickled people?
Winston: There was a lot of play. I think what this movie does is it questions assigned narratives. There are assigned narratives on people and there are assigned narratives on M’Baku, assigned narratives on his people, and he’s aware of it. And I feel like that’s a powerful place to come from and it’s definitely a place that for me as the actor, I understand that being a person of color. Being a black man in this world, I understand the narratives that are on the person, I understand that my body is highly and heavily political, just in its existence. That is a place that people who are oppressed understand.
And you are always aware of it and that gives you some power, it also gives you agency, because you actually know what’s going on at all times. One of his best lines was an example of him having full awareness of how he is viewed and how he’s seen and what people think of him and manipulating that. For his enjoyment and his people’s enjoyment. It’s a really cool powerful thing.
Want to know what line Winston is talking about? Come back after the film releases for a spoiler treat!
This is the absolute perfect cast for this movie, how were you cast?
Andy: Well, Ulysses Klaue aka Klaw comes into the world, the Marvel world in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. At that point he’s working off a ship in India where he’s an arms dealer basically, he’s an arms dealer gangster. He’s amassing a huge quantity of Vibranium and then Ultron tracks him down and he loses some of it. So it was teased in.
And in fact- the way that I came on board actually was when I first started working with Joss Whedon who’s directing Avengers Age of Ultron, it was using performance capture, I was helping Mark Ruffalo with the Hulk. They came to our studio in London called the Imaginarium and we were working with him and then James Spader to create the character Ultron because it was using the technology that I’m very familiar with. And then Josh said oh man there’s this great character which I’d really love you to play, it’s only a small scene.
But I think if the Black Panther movie comes on, he’s very much an adversary for T’Challa in the Black Panther and I said oh wow that’s great. And it was just this very quirky like you say kind of idiosyncratic slightly left field gangster character. That’s how the character got introduced. And then when Ryan took it on in this, he just wanted to have even more fun with it. That was my way into it.
Winston: I think I went through- since I was more of a unnamed actor, and I went through the standard audition process. So I was the audience. So I’m only hearing about Black Panther and seeing the cast come together and they’re like oh my god, Chadwick Boseman I’m like Chadwick Boseman and then it’s Michael B. Jordan, I’m like Michael B. Jordan is in it too? And then they announced Lupita Nyong’o. And then they’re like Danai has joined the cast.
I’m like Danai has joined the cast and it just kept going and going and I told my representatives, I said I’d just love to get in that room. I love Ryan Coogler’s work, I think it has a really strong sense of social justice, every single thing that he does. And I want my career to have a strong social justice footprint, even if it is commercial. I want it to be connected in some ways so I kind of expressed that mission for myself and my career.
And then lo and behold I got in the room with him, he had me do it like twenty different ways and he’s like cool, can you make it a little bit more personal, can you make it more personal. But he just kept going more personal more personal, we do it, we did it another way and another way, then another way and another way. Change the lines here, change the lines there. He wrote sides specifically just for the audition.
And we just kept going and going and going and I didn’t hear back for maybe four weeks. So I was like that was fun, I got to work with him, I actually got to work with him. Because this took like forty-five minutes, to go through the whole process. So I was content and then I got another call, they really like you and they’re asking more questions. And they want to test you. I go and I do the test and it just felt very organic, I got home, I said a prayer, I heard a voice say everything is going to be cool. You’re all good, don’t worry about it. And the rest is history.
How does it feel to see the fan engagement all over the world?
Winston: For me a major thing, especially after watching the film last night, 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.It's a great time to be in a super hero movie. The #BlackPanther movie itself is a super hero, it took on its own life - via @Winston_Duke #BlackPantherEvent Click To Tweet
And they’re watching this and going man I could be like that and T’Challa looks like my uncle, T’Challa looks my cousin, Michael B. Jordan looks my dad, Winston looks my dad, Winston looks like my cousin, Winston looks like me and they’re getting to see that. And children in Tobago are getting to see that, people in Trinidad, people in Brazil, people in Latin America, people all over the diaspora are going to get to see this and develop agency. That’s exciting. I was just watching and this is wonderful. It’s a great time to be in a super hero movie. The movie itself is a super hero, it took on its own life.
What does Winston think of his role as M’Baku and the actions his character took in Black Panther? Will Klaw finally pay for his crimes against Wakanda? You’ll have to check back for an update on my interview with Andy Serkis and Winston Duke after the Black Panther film releases in theatres on February 16th to find out!
Black Panther Good to be King Featurette
BLACK PANTHER stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, with Angela Bassett, with Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis. The film is directed by Ryan Coogler and produced by Kevin Feige with Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Nate Moore, Jeffrey Chernov and Stan Lee serving as executive producers. Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole wrote the screenplay.
Join the conversation online with fans around the world talking about #BlackPantherEvent and the Black Panther World Premiere! Be sure to share this Interview with Andy Serkis and Winston Duke!