Chadwick Boseman has portrayed real life legends like Jackie Robinson (42) and James Brown (Get on Up), but Boseman’s own legend will likely be tethered to a fictional hero. In this summer’s Captain America: Civil War, the 39-year old actor was introduced as T’Challa, better known as Black Panther, one of the Marvel Universe’s most beloved characters, not to mention the first black superhero to appear in mainstream American comics.
Though he’ll pop up in various Marvel movies in the meantime (his contract commits him to five films total), Boseman’s big moment is slated for early 2018, when he shoulders his very own Black Panther blockbuster, with Ryan Coogler at the helm and an all-star cast that includes Lupita Nyong’o and Michael B. Jordan.
With a charmingly crooked smile and quiet charisma, Boseman has a movie-star quality about him. This week, he’s leveraging that aura to promote his forthcoming film, Message From the King, in which Boseman stars as Jacob King, a South African man searching for his missing sister in Los Angeles, at the Toronto International Film Festival. When he arrived at W‘s photo studio at TIFF, he eagerly scooped up photographer Caitlin Cronenberg‘s infant son in his arms, melting hearts in the process.
Surprisingly, the role in the dark revenge story Message From the King turned out to be excellent prep work for his first appearance as Black Panther, who hails from the fictional African nation of Wakanda. “Because I was doing this film I was able to go to Africa before I shot [Captain America],” Boseman says. “It introduced me to some cultural ideas.”
Although T’Challa’s accent, which he maintained throughout the duration of filming Captain America: Civil War, differed from King’s, there are some similarities. “The dialect coach I ended up using for this movie I also used for Black Panther, so we had a working relationship going into Civil War,” he says. “We knew what to change and what to adjust.”
There was, however, one thing that Boseman was not prepared for: Black Panther’s full-body catsuit. It’s a look that bears some resemblance to the fashion-forward PVC outfits favored by the likes of Kim Kardashian, even if Boseman protests: “I don’t think there’s anything fashion-oriented about it.” The costume did, however, help the actor sympathize with the Kim K’s of the world.
“People say beauty is painful, so I understand the plight of some women and what they have to deal with sometimes in order to look good on a certain night,” he says.
“But,” he adds, “they do not need to fight in their dresses.”