Though he only had two scenes throughout the entire movie, Sterling K. Brown had one of the most vital roles in Marvel's Black Panther. He portrayed Prince N'Jobu, the brother of Wakanda's King T'Chaka, and father to Michael B. Jordan's villainous character, Killmonger. It was the death of N'Jobu, and the powerful performance from Brown, that set the stage for the entire film, as those scenes influenced the actions of Killmonger. As it turns out however, Brown didn't initially audition to play N'Jobu.
While speaking with Variety, Brown revealed that he had actually been trying out for the part of M'Baku, the mountain leader who initially challenges T'Challa for the throne. During the audition process, director Ryan Coogler decided Brown was better suited for the role of N'Jobu instead.
“I was doing The People v. O.J. [Simpson: American Crime Story] and Joe Robert Cole, who co-wrote [Black Panther] with Ryan Coogler was one of our writers," Brown began, "and he was like, 'Yeah man, I’m writing this Black Panther movie and everything,’ and I was like, ‘Say what? … Yo, you’ve got to let me know who I’ve got to talk to; I want to be in Wakanda!’
“I originally went in for M’Baku, and I had fun with it; I was taking my shirt off and I was like, ‘Yeah, come mess with this cad, see if you can handle it!’ They were laughing, and [Ryan] was like, ‘Look man, you had a great audition, I don’t know if the timetable necessarily works out with your TV show or whatnot, but I’ve got this role of N’Jobu that I need a real actor for, and if you vibe with it, maybe it’s something you’d consider doing.’"
The rest, as the say it, is history. Not only did Brown provide perhaps the most pivotal performance of the film, but the role of M'Baku also turned out to be perfectly cast. The part ultimately went to Winston Duke, who quickly turned M'Baku from a supporting role to one of the most beloved characters in the movie, becoming one of Black Panther's (many) breakout stars.
Everything worked out the way it was supposed to, and casting choices like these are part of the reason Black Panther became such an instant success.
How would Black Panther have looked with Sterling K. Brown in a different role? Let us know what you think in the comments below!