For most screenwriters, having their first major studio-produced screenplay earn $1.3 billion worldwide would mean being inundated with a sudden flood of new job offers. But for “Black Panther’s” Cole, notching the biggest box office phenomenon of 2018 was just the start of a long, busy year.
“My dance card was already full,” he says.
Cole, who wrote “Black Panther” along with director Ryan Coogler, just finished shooting his directorial debut, “All Day and a Night,” which he also wrote — produced by Netflix, the film stars Jeffrey Wright and “Moonlight’s” Ashton Sanders. Next up, he’ll script Netflix’s adaptation of the Vault Comics series “Failsafe,” exec produced by “Panther” star Michael B. Jordan.
Which isn’t to say that his success has come quickly. After kicking scripts around town, Cole was invited to join the Marvel Studios in-house writers program, a sort of combination development deal-apprenticeship program, in which each writer is given a character from the comics and tasked with trying to develop the character into a film. Cole was assigned War Machine, and though the Iron Man comrade never got a standalone project on Cole’s watch, he went on from there to earn an Emmy nomination writing for “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” only to return to the Marvel fold for “Panther.”
“I think the program was pivotal for me,” Cole says. “It didn’t land me any immediate writing jobs, but it allowed me to make a living while honing my abilities and working with really smart executives.”
Cole wrote the “All Day and a Night” screenplay nearly a decade ago, hoping to someday direct it. Set in Oakland and based on his observations of the city while a student at UC Berkeley, the film centers on a young black man arriving to serve a prison sentence for murder, going back through his life to grapple with the circumstances that led him there. Segueing immediately from the global rollout of “Panther” to a much more intimate drama might seem whiplash-inducing, but for Cole, the two films were surprisingly of a piece.
“It’s interesting, because I think ‘Black Panther’ was a very personal movie for all of us too,” he says. “In talking about the story, the conception, working through scenes, the character dynamics — that was when me and Ryan would have very personal conversations about being African-American, about finding the humanity of the story. We read all those comics, and tried to take inspiration from all of them, then use our own personal experiences to make it our own.”
— Andrew Barker
Influences: Stanley Kubrick, Spike Lee, Ryan Coogler
Management: Circle of Confusion
Legal: Jackoway Austen Tyerman