It says something about an actor when a director crafts a character with him in mind. Daniel Kaluuya is that kind of actor, and the character Ryan Coogler developed and hoped to cast him in for Black Panther is that of W’Kabi. After seeing the Brit of Ugandan heritage in the 2012 short film Baby, Coogler shared with the New York Daily News, “Ever since then, I always thought to myself, ‘Man, I would love to work with that guy.’ When I was writing the role of W’Kabi, I was thinking about who that could be, and I had Daniel in mind for it pretty early on. So I wrote the role with kind of his face in my head.”
Daniel Kaluuya, in Oscar contention next month for Best Actor for his lead role in the 2017 cult favorite Get Out, made short work of snagging that role at this fist audition, where he impressed director Jordan Peele with his ability to shed a single tear precisely on cue. Perfect preparation for Black Panther. During shooting of one pivotal fight scene, Kaluuya remembers, “I just looked around and looked at all the crew and looked at all the different tribes fighting. There’s so much thought and nuance in every single bit of costume, every single bit of hair, every single bit of makeup. Everyone is putting their all in.” His own performance proves that he was no exception.
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 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 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 Daniel Kaluuya’s Black Panther character!
Meet the Character: W’Kabi
Portrayed by: Daniel Kaluuya, 28
Backstory: W’Kabi is King T’Challa’s (Boseman) best friend and confidant. As the head of security for the Border Tribe and charged with keeping the technologically advanced utopian nation safely hidden from the rest of the world. In essence, he’s Wakanda’s first line of defense against foreign threats.
What makes W’kabi relevant: When T’Challa takes his rightful place on the throne, he relies on W’Kabi’s knowledge and keen instincts to justify him as one of his closest advisors
Comics vs. Film: Because of his fierce loyalty to all that is Wakanda, W’Kabi is portrayed in the comics as often being hostile to outsiders, whom he considers to be potential threats to the homeland and the king.
How Daniel Kaluuya views his character: “W’Kabi is a really cool guy but has a very convicted point of view… He’s committed to the cause and is willing to do things that are a bit unpopular for the bigger picture of what’s right.”