With Black Panther marking the arrival of the first black hero in a titular role from Marvel Studios, the cast of the film will soon (if they're not already) be serving as role models and idols for a demographic which has not been overtly represented on such a stage. For its stars Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker, it's not hard to remember the people who played such roles in their lives and influenced their accomplished careers.
Whitaker, who plays Zuri, and Bassett, who plays Ramonda, opened up about their role models in an interview with ComicBook.com.
"Some of the models I would see out in the world," Whitaker said. "As I got older, I saw Martin Luther King, what he was doing. I saw Muhammad Ali. That really impressed me as a kid because he was talking back to Howard Cosell saying, 'I'm gonna do this in this amount of rounds,' and still did it. So, there was these figures I was looking at at the time."
While Whitaker's role models were largely political icons (a club Ali might be included on) Bassett recalls a vast number of brave and inspirational African Americans from her childhood.
"Yeah, for me, I think it was Cicely Tyson, definitely," Bassett said. "I remember Sounder. And Shirley Chisholm. Barbara Jordan. Seeing these women just really serving and bold and smart as anyone. Smarter, even. Their intellect just rigorous, their background. History... Just very aware that."
Ironically enough, the two talented actors play characters which are hugely influential on the younger Wakandans in Black Panther. For Bassett, specifically, Ramonda is the mother of both Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa and Letitia Wright's Shuri and she felt like just that on set. "I really felt like the mother of the elder son and the younger just in the spirit that they brought to it. His commitment, it was the commitment of a prince to be king. [Letitia Wright], she's so alive and vibrant."
"Irreverant and funny," Whitaker adds of Wright.
Watch the interview in the video above and see more exclusive Black Panther interviews including Boseman, Wright, Andy Serkis, Martin Freeman, and Lupita Nyong'o on ComicBook.com Originals' YouTube page.
Black Panther hits theaters on February 16, 2018. Advanced tickets are on sale now wherever tickets are sold. Other upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe movies include; Avengers: Infinity War on May 4th, Ant-Man and the Wasp on July 6th, Captain Marvel on March 8, 2019, the fourth Avengers movie on May 3, 2019, the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming on July 5, 2019, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in 2020.