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Ryan Coogler On The ‘Dynamic’ Female Energy Of Black Panther

Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios

On the eve of what is arguably the most monumental moment of his career—not to mention, a record-breaking opening weekend—Black Panther director Ryan Coogler couldn’t be more humble.

It’s been a two year journey to bring Marvel’s first black superhero to the big screen, but for Coogler, T’Challa’s (Chadwick Boseman) story is far more intimate than just another superhero origin story. “I definitely saw him as more king than superhero,” Coogler told MTV News. “That’s more interesting.”

Picking up a week after the events of Captain America: Civil WarBlack Panther finds T’Challa adapting to life as king and all of the responsibilities that come with it, like protecting his people from the outside world and honoring his father T’Chaka’s legacy. But it’s also a story about identity and what happens when your sense of self is compromised. So it’s no surprise that in Coogler’s interpretation of Black Panther, T’Challa is a character first, superhero second.

“In my opinion, the superherodom of superhero movies is not why you go to the movies,” he said. “I remember when I saw Iron Man, I loved the stuff that Robert Downey brought to Iron Man. I mean, I loved the scenes with the suit flying, but what I really went home remembering was Downey and his journey.” Similarly, it’s T’Challa’s journey of self-discovery that Coogler hopes resonates most with audiences this weekend.

“We wanted to make sure that we looked at what makes T’Challa different from other superheroes because there’s going to be other superhero movies coming out,” Coogler said. “He’s an African king, and his first responsibility is to his people.”

A significant part of T’Challa’s journey as a king and Panther is surrounding himself with brilliant, powerful women. From his little sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), a super-genius who spearheads the country’s technological innovations, to Okoye (Danai Gurira), Wakanda’s fiercest warrior and leader of the all-female king’s guard, the Dora Milaje, the women of Wakanda rule.

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The Herculean task of creating the feminist world of Wakanda was a far more imperative feat for the director, who cited Ta-Nehisi Coates’ recent Black Panther run as his inspiration.

“In many ways the women of Wakanda are the most dynamic part of the country,” Coogler said, emphasizing Shuri’s specific importance to the story and to T’Challa himself.

“T’Challa is a character who is wealthy, smart, good-looking, and he’s serious—because he has to be,” he added. “He has all this weight on his shoulders. So it was great to have a character who could humanize him and make him laugh and poke fun at him constantly… and to add to that, she’s flat-out brilliant.”

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Similar to T’Challa, Coogler also surrounded himself with a lot of brilliant women in the making of Black Panther—cinematographer Rachel Morrison, costume designer Ruth E. Carter, and production designer Hannah Beachler, to name a few. Their input and artistry was invaluable to him at every step of production.

“They’re incredible artists and having them on this film meant everything,” he said. “Women had their hands all over the film.”

And after spending time in Wakanda, marveling at the gorgeous vistas and the brightly colored textiles that hang in the marketplace, you can tell.