Exclusive: Forest Whitaker Dishes On Black Panther #BlackPantherEvent

Posted on Feb 8 2018 - 9:00am by Angela Burgin Logan

Quiet Dignity. That is what I have always thought when watching the formidable Forest Whitaker on the big screen. But that is what I felt, when he walked into the room for our sit down to discuss the blockbuster hit Black Panther.


Forest Whitaker is one of the few actors that has literally done it all and done it well; comedy, drama, syfy, slave, king, narrator, mayor, officer and more. What is ever the more impressive about Forest is that each time he brings a character to the screen it feels new. His role in Black Panther as the spiritual center of Wakanda and spiritual adviser to King T’Challa adds to his list of  unforgettable  performances.

Marvel Studios' BLACK PANTHER Zuri (Forest Whitaker) Credit: Matt Kennedy/©Marvel Studios 2018

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER
Zuri (Forest Whitaker)
Credit: Matt Kennedy/©Marvel Studios 2018

With this quietness on my mind, you know I had to chat with him about this feeling that he exudes.

You master quiet performances better than anybody else. You always leave a big impression.

Forest Whitaker: 

It’s just trying to have the right thoughts and internal life when all of that’s going on.  And 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 Whitaker Black Panther Poster

I know you traced your African ancestry roots to Ghana.  Did knowing that influence your portrayal at all? 

Forest Whitaker: 

I guess it did. I fashioned him around different spiritual leaders, and different ways of trying to get into the moral fiber for the community. He’s the spiritual leader of Wakanda, you know.

What was it like, working on your first Marvel movie? 

Forest Whitaker: 

It was exciting.  Because I remember when we were at the Wakanda Falls it was the Warrior 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. 

Forest Black Panther Movie Interview

Photo credit: HousefulOfNicholes.com

Forest went on to talk about his experience in working on films. But the common experience that Forest talked about that resonated with me most was about experiencing fear when facing something new. Here’s what he had to say.

Forest Whitaker:

Every experience is really different.  Every movie that I do, most of the time, is different, and then when it starts to get too similar, then I know that there’s something wrong.  And if I can’t feel a little fear about it, and I don’t feel like I’m going to change or grow from it, then it’s something wrong.

Forest Black Panther

Is there a superstition or a ritual before going into character?  Did you always have this sort of smoothness about you? 

Forest Whitaker: 

I guess, I mean I’m always trying to do all the research.  I mean, it’s kind of similar, you know.  I do the research and I start to study the different people and the things that they do and meet different people and get different voices worked on.  And then slowly it just comes together.  I don’t know if there’s a magic formula.  At some point, I can say, the magic formula for me is, at some point, I just surrender, I just like, say, okay, this is your space, and let’s make it happen and do it.  You know, and I believe.  And that’s kind of the magic formula I’d want to have.  

Forest Whitaker Black Panther

What messages do you hope viewers take away from this film? 

Forest Whitaker: 

I think the one that he ended on the film on, too, which is like, that we are our brothers’ keepers, you know, 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.  I think the message of female empowerment, you know, just both physically and mentally, and just the power that that expresses, and I think this message, too, like I say, about Killmonger, like about our youth, and how we’re molded by our environments, and how we have to step in and try to move those things forward. 

I think you know, there’s other messages, too, you know.  Colonialism.  And, you know, all of those kinds of things.  Finding your own voice, you know.  Empowerment.  Because I think the movie, like, deals with empowerment, you know.  Particularly for people of color, but for everyone.  

Group Forest Whitaker Interview

Black Panther follows T’Challa who, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. When a powerful old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king—and Black Panther—is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk.

Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people and their way of life.

Marvel's Black Panther

I’ll see you at the movies on February 16th!

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BLACK PANTHER arrives in theatres everyone on February 16, 2018! 

Photography credit: Marvel

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