It felt surreal last night (February 27) to walk into the "world famous" Apollo Theater in Harlem, N.Y. and see the now iconic mantra of Black Panther and the people of his homeland written across the marquee of the historic venue.
The theater hosted a "Black Panther In Conversation" panel in which moderator Ta-Nehishi Coates (who has previously written "Black Panther" comics for Marvel) sat down and interviewed the film's stars Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong'o.
Attendees were first treated to an array of sounds, from Chaka Khan and Omarion to African music, as pictures of Black Panther scenes played on a screen above the stage.
"I feel like I gotta dance and sing like James Brown," Boseman told the crowd as they sat down. The actor, of course, played the Godfather of Soul to the delight and praise of critics and fans in 2014's Get On Up.
"I don't know if we've ever been this proud to be African-American," he continued with a smile, and was met with cheers.
Nyong'o acknowledged the film's success, too, saying she was thankful for the opportunity, and noted it as an obvious career highlight. "I don't know how I'm gonna be when I step on another set," she said, "because the bar has been raised so high."
Both her and Boseman described the Black Panther set as intense, but a lot of fun, and where people from different parts of the globe bonded not just over the movie but through hip-hop. There were "amazing house parties" held in their off-time and even some rap battles during filming breaks. And while filming one of the pivotal scenes, in which Boseman's character T'Challa has to physically defend his throne, some of the hired drum musicians began playing the beat to Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like It's Hot." Of course, all those within earshot on set sang "Sneeewww...ooop" in unison.
When it comes to the beloved "villian" of the movie, Michael B Jordan's Erik Killmonger, Boseman agreed that the character's intentions weren't pure, but that he still maintained many heroic traits. He added that he saw a bit of director Ryan Coogler in Killmonger, and that Black Panther had to "go through Killmonger because [Killmonger] has gone through struggle."
Boseman also revealed that he had been a fan of the "Black Panther" comic and had been jotting down notes for a screen adaptation of the character long before the film was becoming a reality.
Naturally, the sit-down closed with the panelists demonstrating the X-shaped gesture of the Wakandan people and shouting their aforementioned battle cry.
Black Panther is officially Marvel Studios' third-highest grossing film of all time upon earning $411.7 mullion domesivally. It trails behind only The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Outside of the Marvel universe, Black Panther is the 22nd-highest grossing film of all time at the domestic box office.
"Wakanda Forever!," indeed.