We were first introduced to Chadwick Boseman as Marvel superhero T’Challa aka Black Panther in 2016's Captain America: Civil War. This February the character takes centre stage in the standalone Black Panther blockbuster.
But what about the rest of the ensemble hailing from T’Challa’s mysterious kingdom of Wakanda? We’re here to dish on the details of every other major character and actor in Black Panther.
Portrayed by Lupita Nyong’o
Role in Wakanda Secret agent and T’Challa’s old flame
An undercover agent in the all-female Wakanda special forces, the Dora Milaje, Nakia is a highly skilled spy who is tasked with reporting back to Wakanda with the latest events from around the globe.
She also acts as a bodyguard for T’Challa, although she’s clearly never heard of the phrase 'never mix business with pleasure' as she has a romantic history with the Marvel hero.
Actress Lupita Nyong’o has recently exploded onto the Hollywood scene with her Oscar-winning role in 12 Years a Slave, The Jungle Book and her appearances as Maz Kanata in the new Star Wars movies.
Portrayed by Danai Gurira
Role in Wakanda The super soldier warrior
The Walking Dead’s sword-wielding badass Danai Gurira has paused her zombie slaying to join the Marvel ensemble. She’ll take the role of Okoye, the leader of Wakanda’s Dora Milaje special forces.
Given she’s playing a highly skilled warrior, the fighting skills that Danai picked up from The Walking Dead should come in handy. Quite surprisingly, however, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler claims to have never seen Danai in the zombie series. Instead, it was her performance in powerful Nigerian drama Mother of George that influenced the director to choose her for Okoye (pictured on the left in the below image).
Little wonder: the Rotten Tomatoes verdict reads, "Director Andrew Dosunmu's style takes some getting used to, but Mother of George compensates with powerful acting, a thoughtful script, and gorgeous visuals".
Character Erik Killmonger
Portrayed by Michael B. Jordan
Role in Wakanda The big bad
Michael B. Jordan originally auditioned for the role of Sam Wilson aka Falcon (ultimately played by Anthony Mackie) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although that didn’t work out, he’s set to burn up the screen as Black Panther’s antagonistic nemesis Erik Killmonger.
Unhappy with how Wakanda is being run, Killmonger is looking to overthrow T’Challa and claim the throne for himself. Will the dreadlocked actor put in a villainous performance to add to the Marvel history books?
Well, director Ryan Coogler clearly thinks that Michael B. Jordan is capable, having already drawn fantastic performances from the star in previous films Creed and Fruitvale Station.
Portrayed by Daniel Kaluuya
Role in Wakanda The best bud
You’ll likely recognise Daniel Kaluuya from 2017’s sensational horror hit Get Out. Too afraid to watch that? Worry not, as you’ve probably seen Kaluuya in one of his many other major roles in films such as Sicario, Kick-Ass 2 and Johnny English Reborn. He’s even made appearances in the likes of Doctor Who, Black Mirror and Skins.
It’s now time for versatile rising star Kaluuya to join the MCU as he portrays W’Kabi. That may sound like some form of sushi, but he’s actually T’Challa’s best friend and the leader of Wakanda’s first line of defence.
Portrayed by Letitia Wright
Role in Wakanda The tech-savvy little sister
Shuri is basically the Black Panther equivalent to James Bond’s Q: she’s responsible for the technology in Wakanda, is one of the younger characters in the film and has a super-sharp wit. Unlike Q, however, she’s a member of the royal family, being T’Challa’s little sister and princess of Wakanda.
Actress Letitia Wright has made appearances in British TV shows such as Doctor Who, Humans and Cucumber, while she made her big Hollywood breakthrough in the Netflix drama Urban Hymn, set against the backdrop of the 2011 London riots. She’s even grabbed a role in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming virtual reality adventure Ready Player One. Not bad going.
Portrayed by Winston Duke
Role in Wakanda The villainous gorilla worshipper
Having seen The Avengers alongside eventual Black Panther co-star Lupita Nyong’o back in 2012, Law and Order actor Winston Duke was reportedly so awestruck by the film that it became his dream to appear in a future Marvel blockbuster.
It seems his dream has come true as he’s been cast as M’Baku, leader of a gorilla-worshipping Wakanadan tribe that are protesting T’Challa’s rise to the throne. Probably not the character Duke had in mind as he ogled Iron Man and Hulk in The Avengers, but he’s still living every nerd’s dream. M'Baku is also set to appear in April's Avengers: Infinity War.
Portrayed by Angela Bassett
Role in Wakanda The wise mother
Renowned actress Angela Bassett has appeared in a number of noteworthy biographical films. Oscar nominated for her role as music legend Tina Turner in What’s Love Got To Do With It, she’s also appeared in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, The Rosa Parks Story and Notorious, as well as blockbusters including Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Olympus has Fallen.
She’ll be playing T’challa’s mother, Ramonda. Don’t think she’ll be restricted to an advisory role like most superhero parents, though. Bassett has been undergoing high-intensity interval training circuits for the film, so don’t rule out the odd action sequence.
Portrayed by Forest Whitaker
Role in Wakanda The Wakandan Obi-Wan Kenobi
Another seasoned actor, Forest Whitaker has apppeared in many Hollywood epics from The Last King of Scotland (for which he won an Oscar playing infamous Ugandan dictator Idi Amin) to Oliver Stone’s Vietnam War classic Platoon. He’s also had a run of recent big hitters including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Southpaw and Arrival.
Whitaker will be taking on the role of Zuri, a spiritual elder in Wakanda who helps T’Challa connect with his late father King T’Chaka (who died in an explosion in Captain America: Civil War, paving the way for T’Challa to take the throne). Director Ryan Coogler described Zuri as Black Panther’s answer to Obi-Wan Kenobi, so we can’t wait until he tells Black Panther to "use the force". (That probably won’t happen, though.)
Ryan Jones is an Unlimited card holder who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.