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:

More Film

  • 'Tomb Raider' Star Simon Yam in

    'Tomb Raider' Star Simon Yam in Hospital After Stabbing

    Hugely popular Hong Kong actor, Simon Yam was stabbed while on stage Saturday at a presentation in Zhongshan, Guangdong province in southern China. He is in hospital recovering. The incident happened at the opening of a branch of the Beijing Easyhome building materials company, where Yam was a guest. A man was seen rushing on [...]

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolosnaro attends the

    Bolsonaro Threatens Brazil’s Central Film Fund with Censorship or Closure

    In typical shoot-from-the-hip remarks, Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has declared that Ancine, Brazil’s powerful state-backed federal film agency, should accept “filters”or face closure. “If it can’t have a filter, we’ll close Ancine, or privatize it,” Bolsonaro added, attacking Ancine, which plows some $300 million a year into Brazil’s film and TV industries, for supporting [...]


    Director Sara Gouveia on ‘Looking At Resilience Through Art’

    DURBAN–The Mapiko dance of Mozambique’s indigenous Makonde people was long used as a tool for social commentary. But during the colonial era it became an act of political resistance, prompting the Portuguese to stamp it out during Mozambique’s 10-year war for independence. Decades later, the art has been revived as a celebration of freedom. For [...]

  • Don Edkins

    Documentary Filmmaker Don Edkins on ‘Creating an African Voice’ 

    DURBAN–For the 10th Durban FilmMart (DFM), the industry program of the Durban Intl. Film Festival, a new strand was created to look at the unique challenges and opportunities facing documentary filmmakers in Africa. The two-day program, Durban Does Docs, offers a series of conversations, seminars and workshops with an intensive focus on the aesthetics, funding, distribution [...]

  • A Faithful Man

    Film Review: 'A Faithful Man'

    French actor Louis Garrel has been married twice, first to Iranian talent Golshifteh Farahani, and now to model-cum-actress Laetitia Casta. He has also directed two features, the first a free-wheeling love-triangle comedy called “Two Friends” in which Garrel plays the cad who comes between his best friend and the object of his obsession (played by [...]

  • LGBTQ Film Festival Outfest Opens With

    LGBTQ Film Festival Outfest Opens With Documentary About Gay Porn Shops Circus of Books

    Granted, the red carpet at the opening night of Outfest in DTLA may not have been the most star-studded but it was without a doubt the most diverse, inclusive and, yes, fabulous. “I’ve never been here before,” admitted “RuPaul’s Drag Race” vet Trixie Mattel, who stars in the documentary “Moving Parts.” “It’s supposed to be [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Russ Tamblyn's Career Had Legs After Childhood

    With an acting career that spans work for Cecil B. DeMille and Joseph Losey to Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch, Russ Tamblyn’s creativity and longevity is proof that there’s life after child stardom. In Tamblyn’s case, there’s also been a bounty of juicy film and TV roles long after his legendary legs no longer kicked [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content