John Kani is gearing up for the release on Disney's The Lion King, in which he plays the new version of Rafiki. However, the movie itself does not send a message about family much different than that of Black Panther, which Kani also starred in. Both films see a son destined to be king put into challenging situations which threaten loved ones surrounding him, ultimately seeing that respect for elders and family becoming a major factor. Kani's real life does not sound too different from either of those films, either -- something the actor talked about while also discussing a potential appearance in the inevitable Black Panther sequel.
"I'm waiting for the call," Kani says of a role in Black Panther 2. The South African actor debuted as King T'Chaka in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Captain America: Civil War before reprising the role in 2018's Black Panther. "If [T'Challa] goes to sleep he'll dream about me. If he dies he will meet me. So, probably, he'll call me."
As many hope to see Kani appear in the film, he echoes the sentiment: "I hope to see me there, too."
Kani, having been told by his grandmother as a child that his family came from a line of royalty, incorporates his own life experiences into each role and T'Chaka was no exception. "As the Chinese would always say, 'In order to start a bank account you need to put something in it first.' You can't start with a withdrawal, you start with the deposit," Kani explains.
"In any character you are given to play, be it evil/good/whatever character, you begin with self," the actor said. "You examine yourself and ruthlessly see similarities between you and the devil, or between you and the dictator, or between you and the kind man. And then once you got that as the base you step back, and then create this character with all the ingredients that come from you, and from what the writer has put into the character, from what the response from other characters, and also from what you think the world wants from this character. You also define the needs of this character including the story. What does Macbeth want? What does Shakespeare want? What does Othello want? What does James want? What does Arthur Miller want when he wrote? Those things you incorporate and create in the character, and then you step back and you create it. It always must begin with the point of truth within yourself."
This all might explain why Kani finds so much joy in watching characters become heroes on the big screen through the Marvel Cinematic Universe. "Yes, I've seen them," Kani said. "Captain America: Civil War, I've seen the Black Panther, and I've seen the latest one now, Endgame. And I watched it with great excitement because even this latest one with the girl, [Captain Marvel]."
He particularly enjoyed Brie Larson's Captain Marvel, in fact. "Captain Marvel, whereby the steel trap is challenged, where the hero is a heroine, where the most powerful person who has the welfare of the future of the human race is a woman," Kani said. "What else can it be? Because that was the role of my mother when I was a kid. So, these things it could be as technologically advanced CGI and all, but they're part of the simple thing that my grandfather told me, 'Once upon a time there was a princess name of Cinderella.' That's where it starts. Although, [The Lion King] will use the given tools that we have today in story telling, but [The Lion King director] Jon Favreau basically is a once upon a time story teller."
The Lion King opens in theaters on July 18.