Despite the film being considered one of the weakest and most disappointing projects in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever star Angela Basset says she’s “proud” that the Wakanda-based sequel was “led by women — and by Black women, by and large.”
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Basset, whose performance in the film as Queen Ramonda has earned her the MCU’s first ever Academy Award nomination and her second, reflected on her return to Wakanda during a recent interview with Deadline.
Asked by the outlet’s Carita Rizzo if her nomination held any personal “significance” for her, Basset affirmed, “I haven’t really concentrated on that, but I’m appreciative of being a ‘first’ [referring to her aforementioned position as the first Marvel actor to receive such a nomination].”
“Other than breaking that glass ceiling, I’ve never been a first before,” said the What’s Love Got to Do with It star, whose role as Tina Turner in the 1994 biopic propelled her to her first nomination. “It was a wonderful effort with wonderful creatives and filmmakers and, at the helm, Ryan [Coogler]. I’m just pleased and proud to be a part of a franchise, a movie, and a universe that is doing some great work and has been very successful.”
Turning to the particulars of Basset’s performance, Rizzo then inquired as to how the actress handled the idea of having her character killed off, to which the actress reassured, “Life does have to go on. I guess that’s the nature and the glory of life. It does carry on.”
“We expressed that with Shuri (Letitia Wright) coming into her own and the meeting of T’Challa’s son,” she continued. “It’s just ever hopeful. I think we definitely tried to impart the feeling of, ‘A good morning comes after a long, dark night.’”
Following a brief digressions into talks of Coogler’s directing style and how Bassett’s own experiences with motherhood informed her emotions on screen, Rizzo noted that she was beginning to “get the sense that this film feels very personal, and there’s a lot to draw from real life,” prompting her guest to confirm, “Much has been said, and it’s true, there’s a story here that is led by women — and by Black women, by and large. I think we are a very strong, resolute tribe, so I’m very proud of that and just proud of what we’re able to do onscreen and proud of the impact that we’ve had with audiences.”
“It’s an honor when the movies you make, the entertainment you give, is also helpful to the lives of some,” said Bassett. “This movie was about grief and loss, family, a remembrance, a legacy and moving on. That’s something that’s so very human.”
“To actually connect with audience members who have gone through some of this, and it being a source of comfort and conversation for them and their families, that really is quite an honor that you’re not expecting,” she added. “But it’s an unexpected benefit and blessing.”
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Further pressed by Rizzo on what it was like “having five women lead a film like Black Panther,” Bassett affirmed, “It was nice to come back again for it and carry on the journey of Black Panther.”
“You feel like a family,” she concluded. “That familiarity is a beautiful, comforting thought and experience. It’s great to see each other shine and to watch each other shine.”
However, while Bassett views Wakanda Forever as a seminal moment in female representation and empowerment, the film was allegedly a phenomenal miss with not just most other demographics, but particularly black men.
As per noted entertainment insider and reporter Valliant Renegade , Marvel Studios scaled back their merchandise production for the Black Panther franchise’s second outing because market research indicated that, to audiences, “Black Panther is not a ‘property’ or a ‘mantle’,” but rather “a very specific character” whose “appeal is very ‘male’, even more than usual.”
“This seems especially true with black men,” he then highlighted, clarifying that a more intricate focus study would be needed to confirm this observation as fact.
“Black men have the strongest relationship with the character, with an interesting, strong pop on the father/son dynamic,” he said. “Black men identify with the Black King, strong male figure. Word association: noble strength. How the character holds himself. They admire that in the hero; inspiring to them.”
To this end, the insider detailed that “the above carries over to fathers and sons”, as “seeing the movies was a great bonding [experience] for many black men and their sons.”
“In ‘mom’ groups this came up as ‘my husband/boyfriend/ex’ took their son to the see movies with the character in it, sometimes twice,” he said. “These outings would sometimes include a detour to a toy retailer on the way home.”
“So not only would black men see Black Panther entertainment, sometimes multiple times with different groups of friends, but would also take sons, nephews, etc. to them,” Valliant Renegade stated. “Now that’s how you rack-up multiple viewings. Some very nice focus stories to hear right there.”
“The key thing though was all the male elements,” the reporter concluded. “Black men are even less likely to buy female-IP driven merch for either themselves or their sons – fact.”
Audiences can find out whether Bassett takes home her first Oscar when the Academy Awards air on March 12th.
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