Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman says he was tuned into bringing a sense of culture and history to his Wakandan ruler T’Challa, whose authentic African accent was not initially well received by producers.
“I think the thing for me that was the compass for me, was I wanted to make sure that there was the most truthful representation of African culture that we could do in a movie like this with a country that’s not real, with a past that’s not real,” Boseman told Lord of the Rings star Viggo Mortensen during an appearance on Variety’s Actors on Actors series.
Boseman, who made his first appearance as the African royal alongside John Kani as father and then-king T’Chaka in Captain America: Civil War, explained he was left to navigate the intricacies of an authentic accent long before starring alongside African actors in the Ryan Coogler-directed Black Panther.
“I had to start this separate from them, I had to start it in Civil War,” Boseman said.
“I had to make sure that, okay, what is this guy going to sound like, if he has an accent? And that was a thing that was not necessarily well received at first by the filmmakers and the producer, because they were afraid of, what is an audience going to think about?”
The star explained the varying accents enforce engagement, with audiences having to “lean into it because they’re like, ‘Oh, I’ve never heard that before,’” Boseman added. “People love it.”
“It was a thing of, for me, how do I find that sense of culture?” Boseman continued of embracing African dialects. “How do I grab from my own history and past and DNA — and I used everything I could, you know what I’m saying?”
Boseman previously revealed he fought against Wakandans having American or British accents, which were viewed as more palatable for audiences, he told The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast in September.
“They felt that [an African accent] was maybe too much for an audience to take. I felt the exact opposite,” Boseman said.
“Like if I speak with a British accent, what’s gonna happen when I go home? It felt to me like a dealbreaker. Having gone through similar situations before where I was willing to, like, stand up for it I was like, well, here we go again. So for them I don’t think it was that deep, I think it was an opinion.”
The real-life Xhosa language spoken by T’Challa and his people was “such an important factor,” Boseman said, “that if we lose this right now what else are we going to throw away for the sake of making people feel comfortable? So yes that was a huge thing — once we decided to do it, we went for it.”
Boseman next returns as T’Challa in Avengers: Endgame, out April 26.