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EXCLUSIVE: Lupita Nyong’o & Winston Duke on Art Imitating Life in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

In this conversation, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” stars Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia) and Winston Duke (M’Baku) tell BellaNaija about reprising and preparing for their roles, dealing with loss and grief in the wake of Chadwick Boseman‘s (T’Challa) sad passing, and what it was like shooting the film.

How are y’all enjoying Nigeria?

So far, so good. We just got here.

Winston: This my first time in Nigeria… the most of what I’ve seen is…
Luputa: … these walls. Haha
Winston: haha… the hotel.

Well, you get to experience the Nigerian people and fashion later today…

Yeah… we’re very ready and we cannot wait!

What was the first thing that came to your mind after reading the script?

Lupita: To be honest, when I first read the script, I thought “this is a lot of work”.
Winston: I said “this is huge. This is a big big movie.” And it felt bigger than the last movie by far. In both length and scope. It felt like the movie was doubling down on everything: if there was a car chase scene, the next one’s going to be bigger. It was just so much bigger and I said “wow. It’s a mountain to climb and it’s epic.”

How did you prepare for your role?

Lupita: First of all, we’re reprising roles, so it was good we had a blueprint for our characters and it was about building on it. We’d experienced the devastation of losing Chadwick and that completely shifted what the second movie was going to be. And in the end, Ryan decided to reflect that loss in the movie and to pivot and make this movie about losing T’Challa and about the process of grief; where people are asking “how do you move forward after a great loss… after a tragedy?” And “where and how do you find hope?” With this film, it took really confronting our own grief and utilising it to tell this story. It was art imitating life. 

For me, the biggest preparation was meditation; and I thought a lot about Chadwick and his work ethic. It was a lot of spiritual and emotional preparation. There was the creative stuff, obviously, but it took really nurturing myself in order to be able to show up and play make-believe all day because real life was quite challenging.

Winston: Reprising the role made it easier. Because there were certain things that I didn’t have to do again: I didn’t have to work on the Igbo dialect again. I just had to tune it up. I didn’t have to work on how he (M’Baku) walked again, I just had to tune it up. I got back in the skin very quickly. It was remaining being open up to what life was already doing. That was hard. It was opening yourself to really feeling what you’re having a hard time processing this entire time and embracing the state of confusion. And the movie itself was a lot about this macro state of confusion that was left in the wake of the passing of T’Challa. And that in itself was reflective of what we were going through with Chadwick. 

So, leaving yourself open to changing with whatever change was going to come was a big part of that. It’s a lot easier said than done; because there were so many things landing on you that you didn’t prepare for and they’d change day to day on set. It was a really big collaborative process… we had an entire dance preparation that we worked on as the Jabari that didn’t make it to even being shot. But that’s just how much stuff we were working on. You just had to be willing to work on things because the movie just kept changing. It just kept transforming and evolving daily. So, leaving yourself open to the changes and changing with them, I’d say, was a big part of the preparation.

Lupita: Yeah, that’s definitely true.

What lesson did you learn about dealing with loss and grief from shooting this film?

Lupita: The power of the collective. To overcome such things, it’s so important to have people around you. People you can count on, rely on, and move through it with.

Winston: There’s no perfect way. There’s no perfect way. You’ve just gotta go through it and however it happens, it happens.

It’s time for some fun questions…


Apart from yourself, who was your favourite character?

Lupita: Urghh… why are you asking me to choose? Well, I really enjoyed watching Letitia Wright work. Her character went through a major shift from the first film. And to see her power through it and show up in such a different way, was astounding.

Winston: Ahh… mehn. It’s very hard to choose a favourite…

Lupita: Yeah, “favourite” is not the right word.

Winston: It’s hard to choose a favourite especially because we’re all actors. We just love seeing people working, doing their thing, and killing it. There are incredibly memorable scenes from Angela Bassett. I loved the visual storytelling as well…. The costumes were… costuming, really. Haha. Yeah, I loved watching Danai and the rest of the Dora Milaje in their costumes. I loved watching Angela Bassett’s crown. That thing was acting itself. I really loved watching the Talokan. Visually, it’s incredible. I loved watching Tenoch. I’m a fan of the whole process so I really loved watching everybody.

Who was the funniest person on set?

Winston: It’s me!
Lupita: That’s definitely Winston

Who was always tired?

** Both laugh **

Lupita: Oh yeah, who was always tired?
Winston: I dunno, I think Letitia, because she was in the most scenes
Lupita: Yeah

Who was never tired?

Winston: None of us. It’s exhausting. It’s an exhausting movie

Who was always eating/hungry?

Winston: That was me! I was always eating and I was always hungry.
Lupita: You? That’s not true, is it?
Winston: It’s true.
Lupita: Alright, he’ll take it.

Was Namor a hero or a villain?

Lupita: I think it depends. One person’s hero is another person’s villain, and the other way round. I think it depends on whose perspective you’re looking at it from.

Winston: I think what’s really cool about Marvel movies is that there aren’t really clear villains. I think what they have are antagonists – people who just have opposing viewpoints and are willing to risk it all to defend that viewpoint.

Photo Credit: StillMoving.Net for Disney

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