In the past year, two very prominent superheroes joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe to critical acclaim. Captain America: Civil War saw Chadwick Boseman take on the character of T’Challa, a man better known by his alter-ego Black Panther. And, on the small screen, Mike Colter came to life as Luke Cage in his own titular series on Netflix. The two characters have prompted comic book fans to think intently about diversification, and it seems like Dijmon Hounsou is happy for it.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, Hounsou was asked about his previous work with the MCU, and the actor said, “it’s about time!” viewers saw strong, black heroes on screen.
“It’s absolutely great news to have a hero that black folks can identify with,” Hounsou said. However, his excitement dimmed somewhat as he told a rather heart-wrenching story about how homogenous, or whitewashed cast, have effected his son.
Hounsou said, “Could you imagine my misfortune when my son told me: ‘I want to be light-skinned so I can climb the walls like Spider-Man – just because he has seen Spider-Man and Batman and all these superheroes who were all white. The minute he said it, I was like, damn. My whole self was shattered. I was like, wow, what sort of comeback do you have for this?”
The actor then said it was important for people of all races and cultures to see themselves represent in film or television. “It’s important to recognize yourself,” he said. “It’s absolutely important. That’s the value in telling stories. There’s a reason why we create fantasy stories, so we can surpass this life condition.”
Hounsou himself has been part of Hollywood’s shift towards inclusive casting over the past decade. The actor played Korath in Guardians of the Galaxy, and Hounsou even voiced T’Challa/Black Panther in BET’s cartoon series. Many fans had rallied behind Hounsou when Marvel began casting the character’s live-action counterpart, but the actor said he’s not upset that Boseman won the role.
“There are things that you hope to get and obviously everyone was talking about who would get the role and he was lucky to get it,” Hounsou said. “It was not something that was mine that I’m losing. Fair enough that he got the role and I hope he does a great job with it.”
Hounsou, who hails from West Africa, isn’t the only African actor who feels a strong connection with Black Panther. The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira was cast in the upcoming blockbuster, and she told ET that Black Panther had a significant effect on her.
“I grew up seeing a lot of superheroes and they didn’t look like me and they certainly weren’t in Africa. I think that it is something great for girls who are like me growing up. Growing up in Africa, we were looking for images we couldn’t always find,” she said.