Chadwick Boseman explains why the Black Panther speaks with an African Accent
The Black Panther Press Conference
During the recent Black Panther Event, I had the chance to attend the all press conference for Marvel Film Black Panther at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills. Stars include Chadwick Boseman (“T’Challa / Black Panther”), Lupita Nyong’o (“Nakia”), Michael B. Jordan (“Erik Killmonger”), Danai Gurira (“Okoye”), Daniel Kaluuya (“W’Kabi”), Angela Bassett (“Ramonda”), Forest Whitaker (“Zuri”), Andy Serkis (“Ulysses Klaue / Klaw”), Martin Freeman (“Everett K. Ross”), Letitia Wright (“Shuri”), Winston Duke (“M’Baku”), Director Ryan Coogler and Producer and President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige.
It was a Q&A for the entire cast, hosted by Nichelle Turner of Entertainment Tonight, covering a variety of topics surrounding the film and its production. I had just one big burning question I needed answered…
Dating back to Captain America: Civil War when Black Panther was first introduced, I found it pretty fascinating that the effort was made to have the Black Panther character speak in an African accent. Of course, he’s from the fictitious nation of Wakanda, so it would make sense that his accent would not be westernized, but African accents are not very common in western films. Other than Disney’s Queen of Katwe, I don’t know if I’ve seen too many other movies (that positively reflect African culture) so prominently feature African accents and dialects. I’d also read that this was a very deliberate request from Chadwick Boseman that the character would be developed in this way.
Chadwick Boseman on why Black Panther spoke in an African accent…
“You know I think as actors…when you’re trained, you’re trained very often from a European perspective. What is considered great or classical is very often British and I happen to come from a background that does not believe that, you know?
I went to Oxford to study, but I went to Howard and we were taught to respect our writers and our classics just as much and believe that it takes the same skill level and same technique and sometimes techniques that are a little bit different to pull that off. And so I think you have to tell the stories and be true to yourself as an artist.
There was a time period where people were asking me questions about whether or not an audience could sit through a movie with a lead character who spoke with that accent, you know? And it was not Kevin [Feige] by the way, so just making sure you know that – people outside of Marvel- so I became adamant about the fact that that is not true. That the intonations and melodies inside an African accent are just as classical as a British one or a European one and that all of the emotions and aspects of a character can be shown and expressions can be shown through that accent and we have to take this opportunity to show that.
And [Black Panther] just wouldn’t – if he had never been conquered, if his ancestors had never been conquered and he’s never been conquered and Wakanda is what it is, he doesn’t have to go to Oxford to study. He doesn’t have to go to Cambridge or Yale or any place to study. He actually got his education at home and he would not then assimilate a language that is the colonizer’s language in order to speak to his people.
So he had to speak with an African accent.”