Avengers: Infinity War comes out April 27, 2018. Winston Duke is coming off the record-breaking success of Black Panther to talk about what to expect from Infinity War and everything Wakanda.
Males size up everyone they see. Watching Black Panther‘s M’Baku fight, I thought, “I could easily beat him.” Then, the 6-foot-5 actor walked into the room, towering over everyone, and I prayed “mind-reader” wasn’t under “actor” on his LinkedIn. His big screen presence wasn’t special effects. Winston Duke had the same confidence when coming into the room. A warm smile appeared on Duke’s face, greeting everyone without a stutter in any word.
The 31-year-old actor joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe this year as M’Baku, leader of the Jabari in Black Panther. He became one of the standouts in the film, got a viral challenge based on his character, and is one of the heroes in the newest Avengers flick.
Some of his first words about Infinity War were, “All of it is going to be weaved into this beautiful tapestry of storytelling you’ve never seen before.”
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Iron Man was the first to kick off the MCU and Black Panther is the latest solo film of Phase 3. Avengers 4 (formerly Infinity War Part 2) is referred to as the end of an era by Marvel President Kevin Feige. Infinity War right now can be seen as the beginning of that end.
“We have 18 movies worth of invested stories. 10 years of storytelling that has happened to get you invested in these characters.
“It’s 18 movies worth of that in one movie and they’re all going to be weaved together to tell this story of something even larger on this cosmic scale.
“It’s really going to be exciting. All the things you love the most are all going to be challenged.”
Winston Duke said the key ingredient that makes Marvel films stand out is that “it’s a universe of really strong, bold personalities who happen to have superpowers”.
Making a Universe Come to Life on Screen
Ryan Coogler directed Black Panther, and the Russo brothers have directed many Marvel films, with Infinity War being their latest. Duke talked about the different experience he had regarding each project.
“On ‘Black Panther’, we created a family and really early on, it stopped being a job and became this labor of love. Everyone was bringing their best foot forward knowing that we’re starting something, building a globe, building a language that people are then going to start using.
“You were on the ground floor on construction and then you go into ‘Avengers’ where it’s already built. Over all these years, over all these franchises and they have their own shorthand. Their own language they created as a team.”
Winston Duke didn’t feel like an outsider when walking on the IW set with the other BP cast.
“What was refreshing was that they welcomed you into it. It was like one family being welcomed into the home of another family and saying, ‘Not only are you welcomed here but there is space for you.’
“What’s beautiful is that Marvel is always going back to the drawing board and always going back to revisiting the source material, which is the comic books.
“They’re always wondering, ‘How can we interweave this or that? How can we take this story, from this ark, from this iteration of the comic book and put it in there?”
The latest commercials for Infinity War feature Wakanda heavily. Those ads come off more like Black Panther 2 than anything else. Shuri and M’Baku appearing in these ads after the record-breaking success of Black Panther may just be a coincidence.
Winston Duke’s phone rang on a Tuesday and he was asked to be on set Thursday. He agreed, showed up, and M’Baku was in the fight of Infinity War. Whether or not this was a last-minute change, Duke says he just “answered the call like a true superhero”.
He also said there wasn’t much prep since he already knew M’Baku so well. Taking the character and putting him in a new circumstance had the test of the unknown. Not knowing the whole story was a challenge, but Duke felt it wasn’t a leap of faith because of how great the franchise is.
Big Changes Claw into the Homeland
The set family is a fresh part of this star’s life. However, his family in the islands is riding new waves because of Black Panther. Duke hails from Argyle, a village in Tobago, where he recently went back to visit after the film’s release.
His uncle and other relatives have never been to the theater. He says they are used to getting “a version” of the movies to watch from home. Duke says the whole village went to watch Black Panther, and during a screening, his uncle jumped up to scream “that’s my nephew” with the audience going wild.
“He didn’t even see the movie because he just kept laughing and screaming every time I came out,” Duke added.
Winston Duke heard stories about his little cousins fighting on who would be Shuri and M’Baku. Each is a boy and a girl that want to be both characters, something to which he calls “beautiful”. Not the idea of child Fight Club, but the thought of children not caring about character gender.
“It’s really humbling to know that my community, which isn’t in any kind of proximity to Hollywood. They’re still consuming it…they identify themselves as this or that based on what they see on TV.
“But, they haven’t in the past been in a position where they can have any effect on what is coming out.
“Now, they know a son of their soil, a son of their teachings and whooping’s. A son of their cuisine… is affecting some change.”
The actor points to having the ear of the press, Coogler, or Hollywood producers, and being able to share his voice in different matters. “Words fail to capture what that means to me,” he said. He went on to mention that the now-famous Jabari chant came from improvisation.
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As confident as Duke seems in person, there are some traits he wishes to get from M’Baku. He envies how M’Baku is a leader and unapologetic, stating that is what makes him so fun to play. “He says what he feels and means what he says,” Duke said.
Duke is being coy about the Black Panther sequel, but he left saying, “If they call on a Tuesday, I’ll be there Tuesday night.” Avengers: Infinity War comes out April 27, and M’Baku will be on the frontlines when the battle begins.
What are you hoping to see from Infinity War? Did you feel the same way as our Black Panther review? Leave us your comments and stay tuned for an early review of Infinity War in the coming days!