When I saw that Forest Whitaker was on our interview list, I knew I was about to meet an iconic actor. I’m sure you all remember his character in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (his first movie) and Good Morning, Vietnam (just to name a few). He is know as the gentle giant and when he walked into the room he embodied a powerful, yet calm aura. He was cast perfectly in the role of Zuri.
This was Forest’s first Marvel movie…and we wanted to know how he felt about his role. He told us that “It was exciting. Because I remember when we were at the Wakanda Falls it’s so overwhelming. Because it felt like this hundred-foot waterfall was falling all around us. And this pool of water. And we’re bringing him out, out of this ship, and just, it’s just massive. It’s a very powerful, powerful experience. But when what I did with Chad inside, I really got to the get inside the emotional heart of it, too. So it’s more complete than a lot of other experiences, in some ways, you know.”
Zuri is the spiritual leader of Wakanda. A good friend to former King T’Chaka, Zuri has become a mentor figure to T’Challa, bestowing his knowledge and wisdom onto the Black Panther. Zuri is also the keeper of the Staff of Bashenga, and tends the garden of the Heart-Shaped Herb that gives Black Panther his powers.
Forest Whitaker is a master of the quiet performances. He always leaves a big impression. He feels that “it’s just like, trying to have the right thoughts and internal life when all of that’s going on. And you should, hopefully, an audience will be able to feel what I’m thinking, and what’s going on inside, you know. That’s kind of what I do, just to figure out what I feel, what I think.”
Forest used some of his African ancestry roots to Ghana to help mold his character. He fashioned Zuri around different spiritual leaders focusing on “the moral fiber for the community.” Because he’s the spiritual leader of Wakanda, Forest was just trying to understand that from different perspectives.
There is a plot twist in the movie (and I won’t spoil it for you)…but Forest knew that their was a twist, he just didn’t know who would be responsible for those tragic events.
This movie is going to be HUGE! We wanted to know if Forest foresaw the impact this movie was going to have? He said, “I think that the expression of it, I didn’t imagine exactly, but I think I imagined it being — having this kind of magnitude. I think I imagined it that way, not just from the comic book, but when Ryan said he was going to do it, and I had a relationship with Ryan before. So, I knew him as a filmmaker, and as an artist, and I thought that something really special was going to happen. I didn’t know what exactly, but I definitely knew something special was going to happen.” And something special indeed…I highly encourage EVERYONE to go see the movie! Forest saw the movie for the first time at the LA World Premiere too. He was “blown away by the film. You know. I mean, I guess I didn’t — I don’t know if I expected all of the humor, and all the emotion, and all of the messages. You know. So, I was still trying to process it. I realized that I need to go see the movie a couple of times.”
So what was it like after the camera’s were turned off? Forest painted an image for us during the Wakanda Falls scene… “the drummers would continue to play a lot between the takes. People would start singing and stuff, so it was like, a real communal experience.” They became a family…they worked together, but sang together and lived the moments.
What should people take from this movie? Forest hopes that the end of the film with make a big impact. “That we are brothers’ keepers, that we have to, even in our own comfort, be able to reach out and help those and help others is important. One tribe, I think, is important.” He also stated that the message of female empowerment, both physically and mentally, and just the power that they express is a very strong part of the movie.
Fun Fact…DID YOU KNOW? Young Zuri is played by Denzel Whitaker. While he shares the same last name with Forest Whitaker, who plays the older Zuri, they are not related. However, they did play father and son in Denzel Washington’s “The Great Debaters.”
Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” hits U.S. theaters on February 16, 2018.
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Disclosure: I am a Disney Blogger. This will be an all-expense paid trip. All opinions are 100% my own.