When Black Panther opens in theaters in February it will mark the first time that the fictional African nation of Wakanda be depicted on screen. For production designer Hannah Beachler, being the first to depict Wakanda gave her an opportunity to create a whole new world.
Beachler, whose credits include the Oscar-winning Moonlight, Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade, and Black Panther director Ryan Coogler's feature-length debut Fruitvale Station, recently told The Frame that creating the world of Wakanda was a challenge in part because it had never been done before.
"It was a challenge for us," Beachler said. "For Ryan and I we saw the opportunity to create something with Marvel that they haven’t' done. You know, that' the way I look at how I would utilize the money is I had more of an opportunity to bring place to it. And be more detailed about it. And because it wasn't a place that existed or had really been defined in any other film -- I'm talking about Wakanda -- we could really play with that and we wanted to do a lot of practical builds. We didn't really want to use a lot of blue screen."
Given what audiences have already seen of Black Panther, building the advanced African utopia with limited VFX and blue screen was certainly a challenge. Early looks at Wakanda have revealed a rich, dense urban landscape complete with flying vehicles and soaring architecture. But Beachler was able to achieve the Afrofuturistic setting with real sets.
"We had a lot of extensions," Beachler explained. "I would build so far and then I would extend. We tried not to put the VFX in front. Pretty much every single set is practical and then the bigger world outside of that would become an extension."
And for Beachler, making Wakanda real was about more than wise use of money or limiting VFX. The designer felt like she had a responsibility to truly represent Wakanda as the untouched nation it was written as.
"For me, it was always understanding that Wakanda had been there for 10,000 years and then what does it look like now?" Beachler said. "It was supposed to be a place that was never colonized too, so what does that look like?"
Audience will get to see what that Wakanda looks like when Black Panther hits theaters on February 9, 2018.