Bringing Black Panther antagonist, Erik Killmongr to life, took Michael B. Jordan to a “dark place”. Marking their third time collaborating after 2013’s Fruitvale Station and 2015’s Creed, director Ryan Coogler tapped the 30-year-old actor to star opposite Chadwick Boseman in the upcoming Marvel Studios origins film.
We’ve seen the Killmonger character don his own gold fight suit similar to Black Panther’s and go head-to-head with T’Challa in footage from some action set pieces in the movie. But more than that, the character apparently has some deep emotional and psychological development that Jordan also had to prepare for. It came to a point that it became so intense that the actor was personally affected by his character’s outlook.
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Speaking with Empire as part of the magazine’s cover feature for the upcoming superhero movie, The Wire alum talked about the rigorous process of getting in the zone to play his role. Jordan gave it his all to bring the best possible big-screen iteration of Killmonger to life – so much that the character stayed with him, even after principal photography on the movie had wrapped. Despite this, he “had a lot of fun on set” thanks to the great dynamic between him and Boseman while filming:
“It took me to a dark place. Honestly, I can’t really go through all I went through to get into it because I want to keep that close to me. But it stuck with me afterwards… Chadwick’s a very talented dude. There’s a lot of physical moments and action sequences throughout this film that cause us to really challenge ourselves, and also fall deeper into character.”
“It’s an all-black cast for the most part and it’s set in Africa, but it’s universal in so many ways to everybody around the world, so I feel like it’s something that everybody can take something from.”
Little is known about Jordan’s iteration of Killmonger. In the comics, the character is a native of Wakanda whose family was exiled after his father was caught working against the monarchy by helping Ulysses Klaue (played by Andy Serkis in Black Panther) attack the nation. From what we have seen in the trailers, it appears that the big screen version of the villain also has ties to the arms dealer. Furthermore, Jordan doesn’t have the African accent that Boseman uses in the movie, which fits with his comic book backstory. What’s clear, though, is that he has a very different perspective than T’Challa, when it comes to how to run the high-tech nation of Wakanda.
Adding another layer of mystery with Killmonger’s characterization in the movie is Boseman’s previous comments that the real villain of the narrative is Klaue. Killmonger may be more of an antagonist by comparison, given how his outlook classes with T’Challa’s way of running things. The hope is that Jordan’s character will have better-developed motivations for doing what he does and not just be another bad guy who wants to amass power. Rather than wanting to see Wakanda destroyed, his rift with the King of Wakanda is rooted in ideological difference more than anything else. Assuming Killmonger’s comics backstory is mostly carried over here, he will also be fueled by a personal grudge (given what happened to his family).
By now, Marvel Studios is somewhat infamous for short-changing their villains and putting more focus on their heroes instead. More often than not, the villains are one and done game players who are easily discarded by the end of every movie. We hope that is not the case with Jordan’s Killmonger in Black Panther, especially with his relationship with T’Challa drawing comparisons to the love-hate dynamic between Professor X and Magneto. It might be fun to see how their dynamic changes in the future.
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