We’ve come to know Forest Whitaker as being a big guy harboring even bigger talent. His body of work is peppered with his portrayals of “gentle giant” characters whose outward displays of vulnerability often belie an inner core inner of strength and conviction.
Whitaker’s newest role, as Zuri in the much-anticipated Black Panther, once again allows the Oscar-winning actor to portray a character whose calm, sage countenance deftly camouflages the fierce heart of a warrior. It’s a role seemingly tailored for Forest Whitaker, given the elder statesman-like respect he was given by the cast made up mostly of millennials. A recent tweet written by the film’s star Chadwick Boseman celebrated the opportunity to work with the Hollywood heavyweight and Angela Bassett: “Legends! Their wisdom and grace guides us, on screen and off. #BlackPantherFam”
The Black Panther movie, named for the first black comic book superhero (created in 1966 by Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby) is poised to claw its way to the top of the box office February 16 with an Afro-futurist narrative and a cast of high-octane male and female characters.
Black Panther tells the gripping story of T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) who, after the death of his father returns home to his technologically advanced African nation to take his rightful place on the throne as the king of Wakanda. Tested by powerful outside forces and a dangerous former enemy, T’Challa and Nakia (Lupita N’yong’o) must fight for the fate of their beloved country and the entire world.
Black Panther is the 18th film to be spawned from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), according to CNNMoney, and the highly anticipated movie has already broken Fandango’s pre-sale ticket record for MCU films within its first 24 hours. Industry experts are projecting that the Ryan Coogler helmed project could open at around $150 million or higher. And according to Variety, a strong box office showing for Black Panther, which cost nearly $200 million to produce, would send a clear message to Hollywood that there’s tremendous opportunity to be found in making more movies targeting diverse audiences and featuring Black casts.
The movie’s megawatt casting, with stars like Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett and Michael B. Jordan, and jaw-dropping special effects, are sure to deliver an unforgettable experience for superhero fans.
But before you head to the theater, meet some of the key Black Panther characters!
Meet the Character: Zuri
Portrayed by: Forest Whitaker, 56
Backstory: Zuri fills the role of elder statesman in Wakanda. He is a spiritual figure who serves as a father figure for T’Challa and is a trusted advisor throughout the kingdom.
What makes Zuri relevant: He is the keeper of the Heart-Shaped Herb, the source of Black Panther’s powers, found only in the nation of Wakanda.
Comics vs. Film: Despite his age, Zuri is incredibly strong in the comics. He is never seen without the spear of Bashenga—a symbol of the Panther’s tribal authority. The spear typically belongs to the Panther Clan chieftan.
What Black Panther means to Forest: “This superhero from Africa who is in this society and trying to fix the world is something that hasn’t been seen before…It’s a really unique amalgamation of different things that come together in an exciting way.”