“Finally! We have been waiting, right?” Angela Bassett proclaimed on the purple carpet ahead of Black Panther’s world premiere. “Has there ever been so much anticipation for a movie?” she asked, rhetorically, as she then immediately answered her own question: “No. Not ever.”
Black Panther, the latest installment in Marvel’s cinematic universe and the first with a black superhero in the lead, is chock full of moments that will leave viewers in awe — “More times than you have fingers and toes,” Bassett promised — including the ensemble of powerful women that King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) surrounds himself with: Bassett as Queen Mother Ramonda, as well as Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira and Letitia Wright.
“It feels like a weight is lifted,” Bassett mused on the impact of the movie. “We’ve been waiting for so long. Clamoring, crying, just hungry for it for so long, even if we weren’t big comic book aficionados. Once we got wind of it and the cast that’s involved and the technicians, like Ryan [Coogler] at the helm and Rachel Morrison, shout-out for an Oscar-[nominated] DP. We’re just thrilled by it. It’s like breathing a sigh of relief, and I think we’ve done it absolute justice.”
Ramonda is the wise widow of King T’Chaka, who was killed during the events of Captain America: Civil War. If you ask Bassett herself, that’s about all she is willing to tell you about her character. “I was like, Don’t ask me anything! Just, How about I not talk to anybody about anything about this?” she laughed about Marvel’s infamous secrecy. Anyhow, what drew the Oscar nominee to Black Panther was the story, which explores both historical and universal themes of the black experience. “We read those stories in history, when mothers have sacrificed their children instead of allowing them to become enslaved,” she said of the movie’s themes of bondage and sovereignty. “We know that. We’ve lived and studied that.”
“Has there ever been so much anticipation for a movie? No. Not ever.”
Ramonda’s only son finds protection through two warrior women: Okaye (played by The Walking Dead‘s Danai Gurira), head of the king’s all-female protective taskforce, the Dora Milaje, and Nakia (Nyong’o), a Wakandan spy known as a “War Dog” and sometimes love interest for T’Challa. I would be remiss not to point out that neither Okaye nor Nakia is anyone’s sidekick.
“The only person I’ll be a sidekick for is Lupita Nyong’o,” Gurira said during a sitdown with ET’s Nischelle Turner.
“And I’ll be your sidekick,” Nyong’o grinned. “The time is coming, I swear.”
Black Panther not only offered the actors the chance to join the ever-growing MCU, the crown jewel of cinematic superhero universes, but to work on something together again. The two have been friends for over a decade, having met for the first time on the theater circuit in 2007.
“The world of theater and acting is small when it comes to Africans, especially 10 years ago,” Nyong’o explained. “I heard of [Danai’s] play, In the Continuum, that she’d done out of the NYU program…She won an OBIE and I happened to be at the OBIEs with my best friend. He very boldly said, ‘You have to meet Danai.’ And he didn’t even know Danai!”
“I felt like we must know each other,” Gurira recalled. “I really believed we knew each other.”
Gurira, an alumnus of New York University, was tasked with trying to convince Nyong’o to attend NYU, though she ultimately chose to study at Yale. Still, their paths soon crossed again. “When I got to Yale, the very first play that I got to understudy was her production of Eclipsed,” Nyong’o said. “I was in that rehearsal room and everything and I made a promise to myself that one day I would get to play that character. And then it was my Broadway debut.”
Both signed on to Black Panther without reading a script — though, as both are “quite picky” about how African stories are presented onscreen, they each had extensive conversations with Coogler to hear his vision for the film and make sure they would be in capable hands. “They’ve been mangled many a time, let’s just be honest,” Gurira said. They also signed on to the project without know that the other had.
“While we were working on Eclipsed, we didn’t know that we were both in it, because, you know, it’s all top secrect!” Nyong’o revealed. “Until Ryan came to see Eclipsed and said, ‘Yo, your girl…She’s in it too.'”
To embody Okaye and Nakia, both actors undertook extensive physical training, which culminated in six weeks of Black Panther boot camps ahead of filming to bulk up and learn fight choreography. “Even the warm up was quite challenging,” Gurira said with a laugh. Playing the head of the indomitable Dora Milaje, it was especially vital that Gurira be able to command attention even among the all-around intimidating group of women that includes fan favorite comic book characters like Ayo (Florence Kasumba) and Nabiyah Be (Tilda Johnson).
“We had some amazing women in there,” Gurira told ET. “I loved the women we got to get together for the Dora Milaje. Some of them are stunt women. Some of them are from dance. Some of them are from, like, circus performance! It was a very interesting group of women who came from all over the world and who all brought in grace and ability and all of that. It was interesting for me — the differences between this character and Michonne in The Walking Dead is there’s this history to how the Dora Milaje move. Okoye is totally a traditionalist, so she really is about form and specificity and she’s going to keep that even when she’s dealing with a bunch of baddies in Korea.”
Rounding out the Black Panther cast is rising star Letitia Wright, coming off a standout episode of Black Mirror‘s fourth season (“Black Museum”) to play T’Challa’s teenage sister, Shuri. You only need to connect a few threads — Shuri is princess of Wakanda, Marvel is owned by Walt Disney Studios — to reckon that, well, Shuri is a Disney Princess.
“Hey, man, what can I say? I’m not going to say no,” Wright said with a smile. “I’m just going to make sure I be a humble princess. I don’t want a reputation of being a crazy princess.”
Lest that imply something about her character, Shuri is also the brain behind all the tech in Wakanda, the most technologically advanced country on Earth. (For my money, Shuri outsmarts even Tony Stark.) Since she supplies her brother with all of his nifty Black Panther gadgets, you could reasonably also call her the Q to T’Challa’s Bond. “Firstly, that was pulling me in,” Wright said of Shuri’s love of all things STEM. “I hardly see characters like this. I knew that if I was blessed to play this role, it would mean a lot, because it would put something out into this world that would be of inspiration to other women, other young girls.”
Even considering just how stacked upon stacked this roster is — Bassett and Gurira and Nyong’o, as well as Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Daniel Kaluuya, Forest Whitaker and Sterling K. Brown — Wright runs away with Black Panther, the standout character in a standout Marvel movie. Her Shuri is sprightly, ebullient and so damn funny. I want the Shuri spinoff. I want Avengers: Infinity War even more than I already did. (Shuri’s in it!) I want Marvel’s Phase Seven, or whichever phase involves Shuri becoming Black Panther. (In the comic books, she eventually inherits the mantle.)
Already perfecting the role of a humble princess, Wright blushed, “Aw man, no. I think everybody did a good job! I’m just super grateful to be a part of such an amazing cast. I’m really proud to be with them.”
Stars pulled out all the stops for Black Panther‘s world premiere!
The Disney and Marvel movie had its big night on Monday, rolling out a purple carpet at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. Many of the film’s stars turned up, including Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordon, Daniel Kaluuya, Sterling K. Brown and Letitia Wright, and they looked just as regal as the ground they walked on.
Nyong’o (Nakia) stunned in the evening’s most glamorous look, clearly adhering to the night’s royal dress code in a jaw-dropping purple custom Versace number with a plunging neckline and bejeweled chest piece. She paired the stunning frock with a sky-high narrow bun, gold starburst earrings and a plum lip.
“Tonight is the night at last,” she told ET.
The 34-year-old actress also noted that with Black Panther came “a deep sense of responsibility,” because there has “been nothing like it” before, even with the other movies in the Marvel canon.
“It’s like you’re like the first to do something like this on this level, so, yeah, it’s going to be something you feel challenged by because there’s no rule book for it,” she explained.
Bassett (Ramonda) also lit up the night, stepping out in an eye-catching canary yellow fringed jumpsuit by Naeem Khan. She accessorized with matching silky platform heels, armfuls of gold bangles, marigold fan earrings and a black oval clutch, finishing off the look with a slicked back ‘do and big, purposely frizzy curls.
“This is the night you can be over the top — we are in Wakanda, right? It’s bold, it’s bad, it’s beautiful,” she told ET about her outfit. “It’s all about colors, all about heat, and I think we’re bringing that tonight on the purple carpet.”
Bold colors were clearly the name of the game, with Gurira (Okoye) donning a neon pink gown that featured a ruffled asymmetrical neckline, contrasting black bodice and a smattering of sequined embellishments. The ensemble definitely matched how the 39-year-old actress felt about Black Panther.
“This is Africa at it’s most regal, at it’s most stunning, at it’s most powerful — on epic Marvel levels,” she said of the film. “It just is unprecedented representation. It’s thrilling.”
Even the ladies who aren’t in the film but came out to support it brought their A-game.
Janelle Monae truly looked like a queen in her strapless black gown, which was given a major pop with contrasting and over-sized white and cobalt blue sleeves. She even rocked a crown fit for a throne and a large colorful choker, tying it all together with a red lip.
Cobie Smulders, who plays Maria Hill in the Marvel universe, rocked a striped rainbow dress that was covered in sequins and had a thigh-high slit.
Yara Shahidi paired a head full of curls with an African-print wrap dress.
Issa Rae showed off the eye-catching green, yellow and red-orange lining that gave a pop to her white pleated, flowing dress.
And Chloe and Halle Bailey went for dramatic looks with semi-sheer LBDs and wine-stained lips.
It wasn’t only the women who ruled the red carpet — the men looked quite dapper as well!
Boseman — aka King T’Challa himself — stepped out in a gold-and-black Chinese print jacket, black slacks and dress shoes.
Michael B. Jordan’s (Erik Killmonger) all-black ensemble was tinged with bits of gold.
Sterling K. Brown (N’Jobu) also donned black from head to toe — sunglasses at night and all! — but his wife, Ryan Michelle Bathe, was a ray of sunshine in a jewel-toned mini and big gold hoops.
Oscar nominee Kaluuya (W’Kabi) topped his white ensemble with a burgundy velvet coat.
Donald Glover led the sartorial pack, standing out in a bright orange suit, orange-and-black squiggly-print button-down, gold chain necklace and black slip-ons.
David Oyelowo also opted for bright colors in an African-inspired garb paired with velvet loafers.
Plus, not only did the actors look amazing on the red carpet, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler paired his black suit with a colorful scarf, and his other half, Zinzi Evans, looked radiant in red.
All in all, this was definitely one royal night!
Black Panther hits theaters on Feb. 16.
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Sterling K. Brown is promising Black Panther will be a deeper experience than your typical Marvel movie. ET’s Cameron Mathison talked to the This Is Us star and his wife, Ryan Michelle Bathe, on the Critics’ Choice Awards blue carpet Thursday night, where the 41-year-old actor revealed what the film will provide in addition to what fans have come to expect from the studio when the movie premieres on Feb. 16. “They ain’t ready bro!” Brown exclaimed. “You’re going to get all the bells and…
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When it struck Puerto Rico last week, Hurricane Maria’s violent, shrill winds screamed for hours. Now, it’s the silence from the Caribbean island that most unnerves a Puerto Rican community of some five million people on the mainland.
Desperate to reach loved ones affected by a virtual communications blackout on the island, Puerto Ricans have turned to modern and antiquated wireless technologies, including smartphone apps and ham radios, for help.
‘I don’t know how he reached me, but he reached me. I haven’t talked to my brother yet because he has no connection.’– Yanil Teron, Connecticut resident
Connecticut resident Yanil Teron, unable to find out anything about her brother for days, even heard from a stranger. An international caller from the Dominican Republic phoned to say her brother, Ivan, was fine after his town of San Sebastian was devastated.
“He just said, ‘I’m phoning on behalf of Ivan. I have a message. He says he is fine,'” she said.
And then the mystery caller hung up. Teron believes the stranger was checking off a long list of pricey international numbers to dial with news about Puerto Ricans who had pulled through.
“I don’t know how he reached me, but he reached me,” Teron said. “I haven’t talked to my brother yet because he has no connection.”
San Sebastian, she said, is one of the communications “black zones.”
While hurricanes Harvey and Irma pounded Texas and Florida’s infrastructure, what’s different about the monster storm that ripped straight through Puerto Rico was the extent to which it severed the island’s communication with the rest of the world.
The storm knocked out the power grid. An estimated 80 per cent of cellphone towers remain down, an improvement from five days ago, when officials said 1,360 out of 1,600 cellphone towers were out, or about 85 per cent.
Teron finally heard from her sister on Wednesday, but has yet to hear from her cousins and uncles.
“But someone in Dominican Republic called to let me know my brother is OK, which is very interesting to me,” she said. “Somehow, the messages are getting out.”
On the app Zello, which allows people to use their smartphones as walkie-talkies to communicate with many people on private channels, voices crackled one after another on Wednesday in a mix of Spanish and heavily accented English.
A woman chirped in seeking “la informacion importante.” She needed help reaching the municipality of Lajas in Puerto Rico’s southern coast so she could find out whether her relatives survived the hurricane.
“I’ve called a couple of numbers. They just ring and disconnect. Is there another phone number?” she asked, repeating her request in Spanish.
A Florida resident appealed directly to any Puerto Rican truckers who might be listening in. If they have commercial driver’s licences, she suggested, they might be able to help transport goods from the port at San Juan.
In the northern city of Guaynabo, Juan Samalot, 64, was relying on online messaging apps WhatsApp and Skype, as well as his iPhone’s FaceTime Audio function for voice chats. But for some reason his internet is often spotty until past midnight.
He said it was until about five days after the hurricane that he learned the extent of the damage beyond Guaynabo and across the entire island.
“By then, I had access to local newspapers. I could see how bad things really were. And this issue about the dam breaking!” he said in a phone interview, referring to the failing Guajataca Dam that has been flagged as a major potential hazard for thousands of people in the northwest.
As internet begins to come back in dribbles, networks like Angie Flores’s south Florida group Boricuas Realengos, or Far-Flung Puerto Ricans, have become invaluable sources of information for people seeking any shred of news about how their relatives are doing back home on the island.
In many cases, Flores said, those offering help to information-seekers on the Facebook group are strangers.
“For example, they’re saying, ‘My child is in some area that has communication,” said Fores, and then someone else will ask,” Can you check if my aunt, who lives in this same area, can you check how she is?’ That person comes back to indicate that she’s fine. They don’t know each other, but we are all like brothers and sisters.”
On Wednesday, she said much of the chatter on the bulletin board was about how to help a sick three-year-old boy in need of oxygen tanks to travel to a hospital in Florida.
From her home in central Florida, Iara Rodriguez had also transformed her Facebook page into a news feed, reporting from an attorney friend in San Juan about a Walgreens that had reopened, and that several bakeries were selling one pound of bread per customer in the municipality of Yauco, a roadtrip that her friend said took eight hours from San Juan.
Reached by cellphone on a boat in the San Juan marina, where she found a signal and could charge her phone using a generator, Stephanie Lebron Ricci said she used Rodriguez’s Facebook feed to learn about ATMs that were working and gas stations that had reopened.
Without power in much of the city, most of the economy is running on cash. But when Rodriguez posted on her feed that her 21-year-old son was stranded in the nearby city of Guaynabo without cash, Ricci said she managed to get money to him by bribing a valet parking attendant at a hotel to help her withdraw $ 300 from a guests-only ATM.
“It had to be a trust thing,” Ricci said, noting she had to give the valet her bank card and PIN because she was not allowed into the hotel as a non-guest.
A grateful Rodriguez called Ricci her “little hero.”
“I still haven’t found out how to repay her,” Rodriguez wrote in a text message.
Though she has been in contact with her mother and stepfather, Rodriguez said she still hasn’t managed to speak with her dad in days.
Yanil Teron, the woman who received the call about her brother from a stranger in the Dominican Republic, suspects people anxious to hear from loved ones will be less inclined to screen calls from unknown numbers.
“This is what’s been happening with my family,” she said. “You have to answer your phones. Because it might be someone who is sending a message to you, and you’ll never know.”