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Chadwick Boseman Tells Viggo Mortensen How Trump Informed ‘Black Panther’

Chadwick Boseman and Viggo Mortensen sat down for a chat for Variety’s Actors on Actors. For more, click here

Viggo Mortensen (“Green Book”) and Chadwick Boseman (“Black Panther”) believe their films have more in common than meets the eye. Mortensen plays a racist driver in a drama set in the segregated South, while Boseman dons a vibranium suit in the Marvel tentpole as the newly crowned king of Wakanda. And yet, despite the different genres and time periods, both movies have a lot to say about the xenophobia roiling the country under Trump and the ways in which ignorance breeds intolerance.

Viggo Mortensen Black Panther” obviously made — I don’t know what, a billion dollars. It was a huge, huge hit.

Chadwick Boseman It’s a new time.

Mortensen Is it a sea change?

Boseman It was already happening. Things have slowly started to happen [with] “Selma,” “Fruitvale Station,” “Moonlight,” “42.” These are quality films. These are great filmmakers. These are good stories. There are more opportunities now. But, I will say that “Black Panther” is the confirmation of a lot of that. It was a culmination, and it definitely is a change.

Mortensen I went to see “Black Panther” under the guidance of my son, Henry, who is a comic- book encyclopedia. So, I had a professor of comic- book lore and Wakanda mythology. He took me by the hand.

Boseman I saw you in “Captain Fantastic” and “Lord of the Rings,” and you were in great shape. And in “Green Book,” I said, “How much did he have to eat?”

Mortensen I gained a lot of weight.

Boseman I was intrigued by that the whole time. I was like, “Oh, he’s going to eat the whole pizza now.” I don’t know if I could do it.

Mortensen I’ve done movies where you have to do lots of stunts. When I was in “The Lord of the Rings,” it looked cool sometimes, but it wasn’t the most comfortable to run down a mountain or have a fight. And that chain mail may look cool, but after about 50 takes, all night long, you start to get tired. You have this outfit that’s really cool as Black Panther. But I’m thinking, you got this mask on, you got this really tight thing — it must have been restrictive.

Boseman The suit is like you’re wearing resistance bands while you run and while you move. In “Green Book,” I was intrigued by the idea of you playing an Italian-American.

Mortensen I was intrigued. I was terrified. If you’re not scared, something’s wrong.

Boseman When I watched you, I was like, “Dude! Are you sure you’re not Italian?” I had to look up your Wikipedia.

Mortensen I had a great partner in it too with Mahershala [Ali]. To me it’s a story about getting past the limitation of first impressions. I think that Don Shirley’s first impression of Tony is, this guy’s an idiot. And he’s crude and he’s offensive, and he just doesn’t shut up. And my first impression is this guy’s boring. He doesn’t like to talk about family; he’s emotionally closed off. And slowly we learn to live with each other.

Boseman It’s amazing to watch these two people who have totally different perspectives.

Mortensen There was a line in “Black Panther” that W’Kabi, Daniel Kaluuya, says. He’s arguing, “Protect Wakanda.” And he sees the pressure from the world outside. It echoed what’s going on in this country now and this fear of people who are different. Fear of what the country is made of and of  immigrants. He goes, “If we let refugees into Wakanda, they will bring their problems with them. And then Wakanda will be like everywhere else.” It almost sounded like the current president of the United States.

Boseman Right.

Mortensen We have to come to grips with the fact that people are going to go where they can find work. Where they can find food. We’ve got to get over this “building walls” thing.

Boseman We were prepping for the movie when the election happened. We literally were like, “OK, tomorrow Hillary will be president-elect.” And the next morning, you’re like, “Oh, my gosh.” The script was already written. Those lines were already in there. It’s unbelievable at times. We’re like, “Well, can we keep that line? Well, we have to keep it because it’s true.”

You were talking about the walls — you know, our society can’t exist if we continue to build walls. We have to break those walls in order for us to advance. What I loved, also, about “Green Book” was that you actually see those invisible walls between the characters slowly break down.

Mortensen You break down ignorance through experience.

Watch the full interview below:

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