Black Panther is a monumental achievement in the history of cinema. With flamboyant costumes galore and a stunning spectacle on display, it’s amazing to see what the stars of this superhero movie look like in real life.
Angela Bassett – Ramonda
Angela Bassett plays Ramonda, the Queen of Wakanda, who hopes her stepson T’Challa has what it takes to fill rhe footsteps of her late husband T’Chaka. Underneath that royal headgear, there are long white dreadlocks. Ramonda has to step up and ensure that her kingdom remains safe.
Angela Bassett in Real Life
Angela Bassett is another fine example of producer Kevin Feige’s vision to hire top-tier acting talent for even the supporting roles of the MCU movies. The seasoned actress has a fine track record leading up to her role as Ramonda. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Tina Turner in the biopic What’s Love Got to Do with It. She also had strong performances in movies such as Boyz n the Hood and Malcolm X.
Lupita Nyong’o – Nakia
Every superhero needs something (or someone) to fight for. If there is anything that the Black Panther has in his life that is worth doing something about, it is the beautiful Nakia, played by Lupita Nyong’o. We learn early on in the movie that the pair were at one point, in love. However, life got in the way, and the events of the movie see them reunite to fight for a greater cause than their own personal romance. Nevertheless, it is not the end for them…
Lupita Nyong’o in Real Life
Black Panther‘s cast has nothing short of acting talent of the highest caliber, and one of the most decorated performers in the movie is Lupita Nyong’o. The Mexican-Kenyan actress has already done some incredible things in her short Hollywood career, most notably, winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the Best Picture 12 Years a Slave. Nyong’o has also done motion capture work on huge blockbusters such as The Jungle Book and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Forest Whitaker – Zuri
If T’Challa is the Luke Skywalker is to Star Wars, then Forest Whittaker’s Zuri is the Obi-Wan figure. At least, that’s how director Ryan Coogler looked at it when writing the script. Zuri guides Black Panther along the way while also hiding some crucial details from his family’s past. Not only does he watch over T’Challa after the death of his father, but he also feels a large weight on his shoulders from the looming arrival of Erik Killmonger.
Forest Whitaker in Real Life
The great Forest Whitaker seems to be in everything these days! Already having an illustrious acting career that spans over thirty years, Whitaker is famous for his roles in movies such as Panic Room and Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Most significantly, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his haunting performance as Idi Amin in the critically acclaimed The Last King of Scotland. Most recently, Whitaker has appeared in huge blockbusters such as Arrival and Rogue One.
Danai Gurira – Okoye
Best known for her role as Michonne in The Walking Dead, Danai Gurira transfers her fierceness from that role into her performance as Okoye, leader of the all-female royal guards. She epitomizes the concept of loyalty to royalty and is even prepared to compromise her relationship with her love interest so that the Kingdom of Wakanda can survive. Although Black Panther and Erik Killmonger will sell the most costumes when Halloween comes around, you can rest assured that Okoye will be in third place.
Danai Gurira in Real Life
Don’t worry, that tattooed headpiece on Danai Gurira’s head isn’t actually real, it’s just very impressive makeup! Although the actress is now famous both for her roles on TV and on the big screen, she is also busy in other areas of life. Gurira is a passionate activist, having co-founded Almasi Arts Inc. back in 2011. The organization aims to promote the arts in Gurira’s family’s country of origin, Zimbabwe. She also founded the Love Our Girls organization.
Chadwick Boseman – T’Challa/Black Panther
We first see the superhero, birth name T’Challa, in Captain America: Civil War. However, it is in his own spinoff movie where the character gets fleshed out in the most profound way: returning home to become the King of Wakanda.
Chadwick Boseman in Real Life
The man inside that instantly iconic costume is not such a brooding character in real life. Chadwick Boseman has already established himself as a fine actor, portraying numerous real-life personalities such as Jackie Robinson and James Brown. Although Black Panther is groundbreaking for being the first comic-book movie to include a cast of mainly black actors, Boseman isn’t the first black actor to play a superhero. Wesley Snipes did it back in 1998 in the vampire anti-hero movie Blade.
Michael B. Jordan – Erik Killmonger
Black Panther introduces us to what many critics consider to be one of the best villains the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever produced – Eric “Killmonger” Stevens. Although he comes across as a capricious, ruthless murderer, the audience learns soon enough that the man born as Eric Stevens has enough reason for why he is so hellbent on taking over Wakanda. Michael B. Jordan steals every single scene he’s in and with Ryan Coogler as director, it’s a match made in Hollywood.
Michael B. Jordan in Real Life
It made perfect sense that Michael B. Jordan ended up in Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther seeing that the duo have already collaborated on two previous projects! The first came in the form of 2013’s Fruitvale Station, followed by the spin-off to the Rocky franchise, Creed. Although Jordan had a minor mishap in his career, starring in the box office flop Fantastic Four, he has since made amends, finally getting the chance to play a villain in a much more successful superhero movie.
Winston Duke – M’Baku
Warning – spoilers ahead! One of the tribesmen who lives up in the mountains of Wakanda is the wild and menacing M’Baku. Winston Duke plays the tall, imposing figure who barks loud and proud before challenging T’Challa to the throne. Despite putting up a strong fight, the warrior ends up losing in unceremonious fashion. However, when the third act of the movie comes around, M’Baku manages to contribute to his country’s destiny in a way he could never have anticipated.
Winston Duke in Real Life
You may recognize Winston Duke from his recurring role on the sci-fi show Person of Interest. Other than that, and a couple of episodes in Modern Family, Duke hasn’t done too much to earn his role as M’Baku in Black Panther. However, his presence was truly felt in the movie, so much so that he will reprise his role in the upcoming MCU epic, Avengers: Infinity War. This is because a part of the film will be set in Wakanda.
Daniel Kaluuya – W’Kabi
It has been a monumental couple of years for Daniel Kaluuya. The young British actor first burst onto the scene with his role in an episode of Black Mirror. Then, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in the horror Get Out. In Black Panther, Kaluuya plays W’Kabi, a loyal advisor to the King of Wakanda. His loyalty is specifically to the King, not necessarily to the protagonist of the movie – T’Challa…
Daniel Kaluuya in Real Life
Besides a few little makeup tricks and fancy royal costume, there is not that much difference between the look of Daniel Kaluuya and his character in Black Panther, W’Kabi. He also speaks in a native Wakandan accent, covering up the fact that he’s actually a Londoner through and through. Kaluuya is scheduled to star in Steve McQueen’s upcoming movie Widows, meaning that Academy Award nominations could be coming his way once again. Many are also tipping Kaluuya to be the next James Bond.
Letitia Wright – Shuri
One of the biggest strengths of Black Panther is the way it builds on what we already know about T’Challa. Not only do we learn more about the superhero and his home nation of Wakanda, but we learn about many of his family members; most notably, his little step-sister – Shuri. The young lady, played by Letitia Wright, is a great source of comedy in the movie and is the technician that brings T’Challa’s “vibranium” suit to life.
Letitia Wright in Real Life
You might not believe it due to her thick Wakandan accent in the movie, but Letitia Wright was actually born in Guyana, before moving to the U.K. with her family! The young British actress made a name for herself on shows such as Top Boy, Humans and Black Mirror before landing her role as Shuri. Wright seems to be destined for great things. She has also starred in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One and will also star in Avengers: Infinity War.
Isaach de Bankolé – River Tribe Elder
Although he didn’t say one line in the entire movie as the River Tribe Elder, Ivorian actor Isaach de Bankolé had one of the most distinctive appearances in Black Panther, wearing a flashy turquoise suit and traditional lip plate to accompany it. “We very much put the River tribe elder with the lip plate in a beautiful green suit in full display, and it is beautiful,” production designer Hannah Beachler said. “No one should ever be ashamed of that.”
Isaach de Bankolé in Real Life
Although he rocked the lip plate with an elegance that is rarely seen in cinema, there is so much more to Isaach de Bankolé. A beloved actor in his home nation of Côte d’Ivoire, he has also made a healthy transition to American cinema, starring in the James Bond classic Casino Royale, as well as episodes in shows such as The Sopranos and 24. Bankolé directed his wife, jazz singer Cassandra Wilson, in the concert movie Traveling Miles: Cassandra Wilson.
Andy Serkis – Ullyses Klaue
It made sense that the supervillain Ulysses Klaue would find his way into the Black Panther storyline. Andy Serkis reprised his role as the evil character, after originally portraying him in a previous MCU movie – Avengers: Age of Ultron. Klaue is obsessed with “vibranium,” a precious fictional metal that is cultivated in Wakanda and is also the material used to create Captain America’s shield. Klaue will stop at nothing until he has taken it all for himself.
Andy Serkis in Real Life
Andy Serkis does like to act in his own skin every once in a while. However, the British actor is well known these days for being the “Godfather of Motion Capture.” He first came to prominence for his groundbreaking role as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Over time, Serkis has mastered the craft of motion capture with roles such as Caesar in the Planet of the Apes reboot trilogy and Supreme Leader Snoke in the Star Wars sequel trilogy.
Florence Kasumba – Ayo
Although not as integral to the story as her fellow royal guard Okoye, played by Danai Gurira, German actress Florence Kasumba does her job as Ayo efficiently and with panache. This is actually the second time she has played the character, having also starred in Captain America: Civil War. The group of female royal guards are called the Dora Milaje and will do whatever it takes to protect their kingdom, even if it means their own lives…
Florence Kasumba in Real Life
Just like Danai Gurira, Florence Kasumba doesn’t look too different in real life. Replace the royal guard apparel and sharp spears and you would think that Ayo was walking down the red carpet! She also starred in another comic-book movie – DC’s Wonder Woman. Not only will Kasumba reprise her role as Ayo for a third time in Avengers: Infinity War, but she will also play the voice of Shenzi in the upcoming live-action remake of The Lion King.
Sterling K. Brown – N’Jobu
The fantastic Sterling K. Brown has a role in Black Panther that has minimal screen time. However, there is no doubt that the character’s decision making has huge ramifications on the story moving forward. Brown plays N’Jobu, the brother of T’Chaka who is sent to California in the early 90s to act as a spy for Wakanda. However, when he is revealed to be working with Ulysses Klaue, things get out of hand. Also, he is the father of Erik Killmonger…
Sterling K. Brown in Real Life
Without a shadow of a doubt, Sterling K. Brown has had something of a late bloom in the world of acting. Although he has had roles in shows such as Supernatural, Army Wives and Person of Interest, it is his defining role as Randall Pearson in the hit drama series This Is Us that has taken his reputation to another level. Brown received unanimous acclaim for his stellar performance and even received the Golden Globe for Best Performance in a Television Series – Drama.
Dorothy Steel – Merchant Tribe Elder
Like Isaac de Bankole and Connie Chiume, experienced actress Dorothy Steel also plays one of the elders of Wakanda who attends all the royal meetings to ensure that the fictional African nation is run efficiently and with honor. Although Steel also has minimal screen-time, there is no denying that the Merchant Tribe Elder has a huge presence whenever her face comes on the screen. With elaborate earrings and an elegant purple dress and headgear, Steel proved that class is permanent.
Dorothy Steel in Real Life
In all honesty, Dorothy Steel’s filmography has been fairly limited leading up to her appearance as the Merchant Tribe Elder in Black Panther. The actress has had a handful of other minor roles, appearing in TV shows such as the short-lived The Trouble with Going Somewhere and Saints & Sinners, which is well into its second season. She also had a minor role in a short 2016 movie that fell under the horror genre, titled Black Majick.
David S. Lee – Limbani
Along with Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger, David S. Lee’s Limbani infiltrates a base in order to rescue their boss Ulysses Klaue, played by Andy Serkis. We will avoid spoilers for those of you who haven’t watched the movie. Put it this way though, Limbani’s role in Black Panther pretty much remains within the constraints of this one scene. One thing is for sure, the movie proves that Limbani found the wrong people to work with.
David S. Lee in Real Life
Before becoming a part of the MCU family, David S. Lee was also in movies such as Blood Diamond and Get Smart. Back in his home country of South Africa, Lee is a very famous name, having starred in numerous TV shows and plays. In 1998, Lee’s career truly took off when he starred in the movie Paljas. It was so beloved by the South African people that it was officially submitted for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.
Connie Chiume – Mining Tribe Elder
Isaach de Bankole wasn’t the only actor to play one of the tribe elders throughout the movie. Actress Connie Chiume also got the chance to appear as one of the most influential characters in Wakandan lore. She was the Mining Tribe Elder and just a part of a much wider committee of elders who are involved in important royal affairs. Chiume’s character is present when T’Challa returns to be crowned and also when Killmonger arrives…
Connie Chiume in Real Life
Although she has a minor role in Black Panther, Connie Chiume has had appearances in a handful of other notable movies during her career. Other flicks that she has been credited with include I Dreamed of Africa, which came out at the turn of the Millenium, and Country of my Skull, which was released in 2004. The former starred the likes of Kim Basinger, while the latter included star-studded talents such as Samuel L. Jackson and Brendan Gleeson.
Sebastian Stan – Bucky Barnes
Although he’s not in the actual movie, Bucky Barnes did make it into Black Panther‘s post-credits scene, meaning that he technically is part of the film. After already appearing in three previous Marvel movies, it looks like Sebastian Stan’s role as the man otherwise known as The Winter Soldier is going to go in an interesting direction when Avengers: Infinity War comes around. His character wakes up in Wakanda, suggesting that he’s going to be working with T’Challa and company against Thanos.
Sebastian Stan in Real Life
Ever since being compared to a young Mark Hamill, many have tipped Sebastian Stan as the front-runner to play an alternate version of Luke Skywalker if Lucasfilm ever planned on making a movie set between the events of Return of the Jedi and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Sebastian Stan recently traded in his metal arm for a more believable role, playing the then-husband of Margot Robbie’s Tonya Harding in the fantastic biopic I, Tonya. He also had a role in Ridley Scott’s The Martian.
John Kani – T’Chaka
Although his screen time in Black Panther is limited, there is no denying that the character T’Chaka plays a fundamental role in T’Challa’s character arc. The original king of Wakanda, T’Chaka travels to L.A. in 1992 to see his brother N’Jobu, who he sent as an undercover agent. However, he discovers that N’Jobu has been working with Ulysses Klaue, Andy Serkis’s character, and it is this confrontation that ultimately sets the story of Black Panther in motion. T’Chaka dies in Captain America: Civil War.
John Kani in Real Life
Despite the fact that John Kani didn’t need much makeup to transform into T’Chaka, you still might not recognize him. This is mainly because he is best known for his work back in his homeland of South Africa. Amazingly, his son, Atandwa, who is also an actor, played a younger version of T’Chaka in the flashback at the beginning of the movie. Kani will play the motion capture role of Rafiki in the upcoming live-action remake of The Lion King.
Nabiyah Be – Linda
Although her role in Black Panther is short to say the very least, Nabiyah Be is used masterfully to demonstrate how much of a villain Erik Killmonger actually is. She was originally cast to portray the character, Tilda Johnson. However, after Gabrielle Dennis took the role in the MCU series Luke Cage, Nabiyah Be was cast as another character that fitted the storyline, Linda. We won’t reveal exactly what happens to her. Put it this way: she doesn’t end up seeing Wakanda…
Nabiyah Be in Real Life
Amazingly, Black Panther is the first motion picture that Nabiyah Be has starred in! In the movie, her character Linda has two distinctive appearances – firstly as an inconspicuous member of staff at a museum in London, and secondly, working on a mission with Erik Killmonger. She is dressed in the latter as if she was part of the SWAT team. In real life though, she tends to avoid dressing that way and saves it for the big screen.
Martin Freeman – Everett K. Ross
One actor who reprised their role from a previous Marvel movie was Martin Freeman, who had already starred alongside Chadwick Boseman in Captain America: Civil War as CIA agent Everett K. Ross. Therefore, it made sense for him to star in Black Panther too. There are some fascinating connections between Freeman and other actors in the MCU. His co-star in the hit series Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch, stars as Dr. Strange in the movie of the same name. That’s not all though…
Martin Freeman in Real Life
Not only was Martin Freeman part of the UK version of The Office, but he also had a memorable role in the first season of Fargo. Freeman portrayed a younger version of Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit trilogy. In The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it was Ulysses Klaue himself, Andy Serkis, who played the character Gollum. Originally a hobbit by the name of Smeagol, he was a good friend of Bilbo before being consumed by the one ring. Talk about six degrees of separation!