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'Black Panther' stars discuss hope for Marvel film and impact

by Janelle Richards and Rehema Ellis /  / Updated 
"Black Panther" actors Lupita Nyong'o and Chadwick Boseman, along with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and Director Ryan Coogler.Nightly News

On Friday, “Black Panther” takes to the big screen nationwide to deliver action, surprise and a trip to a futuristic African nation called Wakanda. But ahead of the highly anticipated film’s release, there is excitement and talks of the global impact and influence “Black Panther” can have beyond Hollywood.

Some critics have called it a worldwide phenomenon, with many on Rotten Tomatoes giving it a 100% rating. Chadwick Boseman, 41, who plays Black Panther, spoke with NBC Nightly News about how working on the film was a fulfilling experience because his friends, family and fans have been touched by the movie.

"I think we put all our whole heart into this and it was something we really believed in," said Boseman. "And everybody came to set and did their best.”

The dynamic roles of both men and women in “Black Panther” are being celebrated ahead of its release. In the first 24 hours of ticket pre-sales, the movie broke pre-sale records, becoming Fandango’s best-selling Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. Fandango correspondent Chris Witherspoon said the movie is a “groundbreaking cinematic cultural movement."

“It’s not just a movie. It’s a movement,” he said. “You have this audience with social media that’s applauding, praising and amplifying the wave of what’s happening right now with this film and it will open the door for more films like this to happen.”

The Marvel design team researched ancient and contemporary African culture to influence the costumes and the film.

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“What you see in Wakanda is really paying homage to a culture,” said Academy award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, 34. “Unfortunately, the continent and its people are often painted in a poor light, and we see the negative more than we see the positive. And this feels like a reconfiguration. This is like, shifting the lens and shining a bright light on something. And yes, we are pulling it into something that feels like futuristic, but it’s so informed by the truth about what is going on the continent."

In New York, Frederick Joseph, 32, launched a GoFundMe campaign that has raised money to take children from the Harlem Boys and Girls Club to see the movie. His initial goal was $10,000 and as of Tuesday, he’s raised nearly $49,000 locally. He challenged others across the country to do the same for children in the communities.

“It’s this immersive experience now where kids can absolutely walk away from this and feel like royalty, feel like warriors, feel like kings and queens,” said Joseph. “You only know how to dream what is possible to dream. If you’ve seen someone who looks like you – your same complexion, your same skin color, fighting evil and riding in spaceships and stuff like that and you’re six years old saying, why can’t I do it?”

NBC News correspondent Rehema Eliis talks with "Black Panther" actors Lupita Nyong'o and Chadwick Boseman, along with Director Ryan Coogler and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige.Nightly News

Boseman and his team are satisfied by the response the movie has received. He said he sees himself in those admiring the film.

"We all have superhero in us. I think that's why people identify with superhero movies,” said Boseman. “We all have moments where we go beyond our normal self, where we feel like we can do things that are beyond comprehension and where we sometimes end up doing things that go beyond our boundaries. So, I think when you see somebody that looks like you, it gives you more of a chance to access that."

Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler, 31, felt a responsibility to bring the Black Panther story to screen in a way that resonated with audiences across the country and around the world.

"My biggest fear, it's not something I talk about often... is dropping the ball," said Coogler. "Dropping this opportunity and making a film that people watch and they go, ‘Huh..that was okay.’ And maybe they forget about it the next day. For me, that would be just heartbreaking with this opportunity."

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The original Black Panther comic was published nearly 50 years ago but Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios says now was the right time to release the movie.

"We've been building our cinematic universe for 10 years now," said Feige, 44. "And when we announced it almost four years ago, it felt like the time to bring this character into our pre-existing world. The good news is, I'm glad we waited until now because, if it had been any other time, we wouldn't have been able to get Ryan Coogler, assemble this team to make this unbelievable movie."

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