When Black Panther hit theaters there were plenty of things to celebrate but one of the most pleasant surprises was discovering the talent of Winston Duke.
“My life has changed a lot. More people know me than I know and that’s a really big difference. People look at me different now and are running after me at the mall, which is very interesting,” he says.
“It’s coming in waves. I did dream this big but you never know how it will manifest. I dreamed big and to some degree, I still dream bigger. Bigger things and more things.”
Aside from the throngs of fans who clamor for selfies when he’s in public, Duke is more mesmerized by the fact that his work has inspired his hometown and his family members.
“Connecting with family and realizing I have eight-year-old cousins who want to be like M’Baku and Shuri is amazing. I haven’t been back home since the movie came out. There’s a lot of talk of what we will do when I get there,” he explains, before poking fun at his mother’s reaction to his big break.
“What does she not say? To be honest, she’s just happy I’m working. She knows what it means to be an actor who is auditioning all the time. She didn’t grow up reading comic books. She just calls her girlfriends and my aunts and cousins and says , ‘He’s in the Marvel!’ ‘You know Winston is in the Marvel, right?’”
He also took time to think about what it would be like to take his character to NYC, a la Coming To America.
“If I took M’Baku to NYC, I would stop in Harlem and go to Red Rooster or Sylvias. I would go to Brooklyn and hit all the West Indian spots. I would go to Flatbush and get some food there too. There’s a lot of culture to soak up at places like the Brooklyn Art Museum.”
When it comes to his character’s love life, Duke reveals his wish-list for a leading lady.
“He needs a Jabari type woman. Strong-willed, aggressive. Where would M’Baku find a girl like that? He needs someone who would talk back and challenge him,” he says.
“Danai [Gurira] is beautiful. Her man is in jail now so maybe she’s available? Everybody is up for grabs out here.”
Fans are so obsessed with Duke and his character, they have made a habit of giving their best M’Baku impressions on social media and he couldn’t be happier about it.
“The M’baku Challenge is amazing. People are so great for rallying around this character the way they are. They’re doing his entire monologue and it’s so beautiful to see.”
Duke is hoping fans take more than his hilarious one-liners from Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, and hopes the larger Marvel message shines through.
“I think that how Wakanda is set up is that they care the most about their people but it’s also a conversation of what kind of world they want to live in. How do you responsibly go out and share yourself and make an impact while being impacted by others? I think the film made a statement about building bridges instead of walls. It’s about bridging the gap between your mindset and your paradigm with other people’s. It’s about unification,” he explains.
“I think that’s what Wakanda is teaching people. Just asking, what does it mean to be a global citizen, or a citizen at all? How does an individual challenge a country? They put it all on the backs of individuals. You have Killmonger challenging a whole country. You have T’Challah challenging a regime. You have M’Baku having to shoulder the responsibility of all those people and make the decision to put all his people in danger to save the country so what is the responsibility of the individual to serve the collective? I think there are a lot of great conversations and I think movies are best when they don’t tell you what to think, but challenge you to think for yourself.”