"Black Panther, I shed a tear. I was sitting in there — I ran into Chad and Ryan before the movie started, it was their premiere, or the screening in New York, and just talking to them and they went into the movie — and the 40 years I've been in this game came back to me," Washington told JOE.co.uk.
Washington pointed to legendary actor Sidney Poitier — the first black actor to be awarded the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1964 — who helped pass the baton to make black-led blockbusters like Black Panther possible.
"I said, 'Man, look at these young boys, man.' And I actually — I just started [crying]," Washington said. "I was like, whew. You know, Sidney, to now? And I'm in the gap — me and many others — are in the gap, but it was like, man. I felt like the third leg of the relay race. Like, 'here, go.' Now, I ran behind them — I'm still running. But I was like, man, they gone. They're gone."
A worldwide phenomenon, Black Panther grossed more than $1.34 billion worldwide — entering the Marvel Studios blockbuster into the top ten highest-grossing films of all time in ninth place. Black Panther became just the third film in history to bypass the $700 million milestone domestically, behind only Disney's own Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($939.6m) and James Cameron's Avatar ($760.5m).
Of its many records, Black Panther reigns supreme with the biggest February debut of all time ($202m) and was crowned the number one superhero movie of all time domestically.
When accepting the BET Award for Best Movie on behalf of Black Panther, Coogler said the movie was "trying to capture the experience of being African on this planet," urging fans to "be proud of who we are and where we came from."
The 32-year-old filmmaker previously told NPR his first experience with the character came in an Oakland, California comic book shop when he sought out "a comic book character that looked like me and not just one that was on the sidelines."
"There's a massive audience — not just of people of color but everybody — who wants to see different perspectives in this myth-making," Coogler said. "They want to see something fresh, they want to see something new, but also feels very real. You walk around in this world, and you see people who look like me — all the time."
The Equalizer 2 is now playing. Marvel Studios has yet to announce the release date for its Black Panther sequel.