If I’m as big a fan of Marvel Comics as I keep sayin’, why the heck haven’t I done any Marvel-based fan-casting, yet? I dunno.
But, this week — my 50th post! — and next week will fix that. (Woo-hoo!) I finally scheduled a couple posts for a Marvel hero and (a few of) his supporting characters. Specifically, I wanted to cover one that was getting some attention, due to current or future-planned TV or movie treatments. I considered Luke Cage, Daredevil, Dr. Strange, Silver Surfer, and Namor, but I’m not quite satisfied with my choices for them, yet. But, I think I’m pretty solid with Black Panther. And who better, right? With the planned supporting role in Captain America: Civil War (rel. May 6, 2016), followed by the recently announced solo movie (rel. Nov. 3, 2017), along with confirmed casting for the lead, I decided I may as well put my own suggestions out onto the interwebs. too. 😉
First, a couple comments on Chadwick Boseman (6′,b.1976), who nabbed the role after impressive performances as two legends: Jackie Robinson in 42 and James Brown in Get on Up. I haven’t actually seen the movies myself, nor anything else Boseman has been in, so I can’t personally comment on his acting. But, if he can put on some muscle, develop some cat-like athletic and martial-arts moves (maybe train with Michael Jai White?), and possibly speak in a believable African accent, I’m sure he will do fine.
Speaking of White (6′,b.1967), many others have suggested him for the role. He definitely has the physique and the martial arts moves. But, even though he still looks good, he’s too old for the role, in my opinion (see below). Others have suggested Idris Elba (6’2.75″,b.1972). He’s a great actor but, besides already playing Heimdall in the Thor movies, he is also a bit too old. Morris Chestnut (5’10.5″,b.1969)? Same thing. Another actor I thought would be great but who is already in his 40s is Hisham Tawfiq (?,b.19??), who plays Dembe on “The Blacklist”. I couldn’t find a birthdate or age (or height, for that matter) for him anywhere, but his resume says he served as a Marine in Operation: Desert Storm (Jan./Feb. 1991). Assuming he was roughly 20 then, that makes him early- to mid-40s now. I also considered Omar Sy (6’2.75″,b.1978) and B.J. Britt (5’10”,b.????), who are closer to our desired age but are already established heroes in the Marvel Universe — Bishop and S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Triplett, respectively. (Not a knockout argument, I realize.)
King T’Chaka of Wakanda (who was also Black Panther, leader of the Panther Clan) was murdered by Ulysses Klaw when his first-born son, T’Challa, was in his teens. (T’Challa wounded Klaw before he escaped.) The young prince soon went off to university in Europe & the U.S., earning a PhD in physics from Oxford, while also training himself to eventually avenge his father. He returned a few years later to take the throne of Wakanda and re-acquire the mantle of the Black Panther by defeating the current holder of the title.
I was always under the impression that T’Challa was in his early- to mid-20s at the time, which is when most people go to college/university. I would like to see the writers/producers include this “origin story” in the Black Panther movie, though I suppose the younger version could be done with another actor or by using CGI to de-age the lead actor. Also, it could be done in a sort of “flashback” fashion, so that the younger T’Challa only has brief screentime. Whether or not they include the “origin story”, my preference then would be to have the lead actor at least appear to be in his mid- to late-20s. However, if they choose to introduce T’Challa/Panther as the already-established ruler of Wakanda (and experienced Black Panther), then they could use someone who is or looks a bit older, keeping in mind that they want someone who will still be believable in the part after 2 or 3 more movies after the first solo film. (On a side note, this is one of the reasons I think it is past time for RDJr to give up being Iron Man.) Boseman is a little older than this (38), but he is youthful looking and can still pass for 30ish.
Physically, T’Challa should be roughly 6′ tall, well-muscled but not overly so. He is a top-notch martial artist, Olympic-level gymnast/acrobat, exceptional hunter/tracker, and adept at using various traditional African weapons. (Guns, too, of course.) As the Black Panther, the Heart-Shaped Herb — which also links him to Bast, the Panther God(dess) — enhances his senses, strength, stamina, etc., to near-superhuman levels. (After several years, Bast heightened his powers to superhuman levels, but that’s not the story we want to see.) Additionally, he makes use of advanced tech in his cat-themed costume and paraphernalia. Personality-wise, T’Challa is a proud, tribal leader with an appreciation for tradition, but he is also someone who embraces new ideas and desires to use Wakanda’s rich, natural resources to make it a thriving, global leader in technology. He has a genius-level intellect, is a master tactician & strategist, a very capable leader, as well as a sharp businessman.
I already rattled off several actors and reasons why I don’t think they should play T’Challa, the Black Panther. So, who do I have in mind? Unfortunately, I could not come up with many who fit the bill both physically and in my preferred mid- to late-20s age range. (I will continue to keep an eye out, though.) But, I found two more actors in their mid- to late-30s who might pass for 30ish, plus one in his late 20s:
Ever since I saw Clé Bennett (5’10”,b.????) in the 4th season of “Flashpoint” a few years ago, I thought he would make a great Black Panther. (Not a member of the revolutionary black nationalist organization, of course!) He has been in a few genre series like “La Femme Nikita”, “Code Name: Eternity”, “Odyssey 5”, “Arrow”, and “Lost Girl”. I think Bennett’s got both the talent and the physicality to slip into the Panther’s skin and give a great performance.
Quincy Chad (6’2″,b.1977) is an ex-football player and fitness enthusiast who turned to acting. Beginning with some stage work, he doesn’t have a lot of TV/film experience. But, he’s had small roles on shows like “The Following”, “White Collar”, and “Person of Interest”. Plus, he definitely has the physical size and athleticism that we need for T’Challa/Panther. This could be a breakout role for him!
Now, go with me on this. Aldis Hodge (6’1.25″,b.1986) is generally known for playing humorous roles (e.g., on “Leverage”). But, he is a very good actor, and I’m sure he has done serious roles, too. (The only one I remember seeing was briefly in season 4 of “The Walking Dead”.) He might have to work extra hard to “sell” it as T’Challa, but I think he could do it. He already appears to be quite fit, but he would probably need to pack on a few sculpted pounds and work on a different voice/accent, etc. But, I would love to see/hear him do it!
While we’re here (heh, heh), I figured I’d throw a few names at you for the role of King T’Chaka. Now, I have no idea how old T’Chaka was when he was murdered. I don’t think he was very old, so he could have been anywhere from 20 to 40 years older than T’Challa. This would make him anywhere from mid-30s to late-50s. The actor wouldn’t need to be particularly physically fit, since he could be in ceremonial robes and/or a tailored suit for his scenes. But, I think he should be able to command respect and have a “presence” that befits a proud African king. Also, his height is less of an issue, but I’d prefer someone close to 6′. I considered several fine actors for this relatively small role, including Michael Jai White (b.1967), Wesley Snipes (b.1962), Eamonn Walker (b.1962), and T.C. Carson (b.1958). But, I finally settled on these three, two of whom are actually African-born:
Djimon Hounsou (6’2″,b.1964) was born in Benin, West Africa, and is known for genre roles in Stargate, Amistad. Gladiator, Blood Diamond, Special Forces, and, of course, the recent Guardians of the Galaxy. What you might not know is that he was also the voice of T’Challa in the animated “Black Panther” TV mini-series. But, he’s 50 years old as of this writing, so too old to play the character in a live-action production. T’Chaka, on the other hand, would be perfect.
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (6’2″,b.1967) was born in London, England, to Nigerian immigrants. He has a law degree and is fluent in several languages, including Yoruba and Swahili. He is perhaps best known for his roles in Congo, The Mummy Returns, “Oz”, and “Lost”, though he also appeared in The Bourne Identity, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, “Strike Back”, “Hunted”, Thor: The Dark World, and Pompeii. Adewale is an imposing figure, he has played Africans before, and he could definitely nail this role.
While he doesn’t have quite the height or build of the other two, Nigerian-born Hakeem Kae-Kazim (?,b.1962) has a deep, commanding voice and has played authoritative figures in the past. You might recognize him from season 7 of “24” (and the TV movie) or Hotel Rwanda or, maybe, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, or appearances in “Strike Back”, “Gotham”, “Covert Affairs”, “Black Sails”, etc. He has done voice work for movies and video games, including “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3”, “Final Fantasy XIV”, a couple editions of “Halo”, and… oh, yeah, he voiced T’Chaka in an episode of “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes”.
Next week, I’ll post Part 2, where I try to fan-cast three of the Black Panther’s biggest, so-bad-you-love-to-hate-’em enemies….
* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2015.