Sterling K. Brown weighs in on ‘Black Panther’ debate, talks black Hollywood’s responsibility

March 08, 2018

After millions of moviegoers packed theaters around the world, there’s been one resounding question on the minds of all “Black Panther” fans — was Erik Killmonger really a villain?

Killmonger, portrayed voraciously by Michael B. Jordan, was the forgotten son of Wakanda, abandoned in Oakland, California, after his father, Prince N’Jobu was suddenly killed. It left many wondering what would happen to the prince’s young child, who was outside playing basketball with his friends when his father died.

And moviegoers got their answer just minutes later in the form of Killmonger, who not only wanted to avenge his father’s death but the lives of millions of African-Americans, who felt forgotten by their mother country. The story line, for many, hit close to home.

Sterling K. Brown, who portrayed Killmonger’s father in “Black Panther,” told ABC News the debate on whether Killmonger is actually a villain “is the most fascinating conversation to come from the film.”

“The whole concept of Killmonger,” he said, “is he a villian or does he represent us — especially African-Americans?”

“He is a villian because, while his intentions, and N’Jobu’s intentions for that fact, are honorable, they didn’t necessarily go about it [in a way] that would actually bring about the change that they want,” the actor explained.

Brown, 41, who spoke to ABC News while working with Clorox for their “Clean is the beginning” campaign, noted that defenders of Killmonger are quick to forget that his onscreen son shot his girlfriend in the face, and he burned all of Wakanda’s powerful heart-shaped herb.

“He wasn’t trying to create a legacy. He was like ‘I want this for myself,'” the award-winning actor explained. “That’s where the intention gets confused with personal ambition, but what he was able to illuminate … is that he is not without a point.”

Brown added that thanks to Killmonger many were able to see a problem plaguing not only the fictional country of Wakanda, but our global community right now. Noting that Wakanda “has resources” and “access to technology,” the actor said the problem was Wakanda was “keeping it to themselves.”

“Not only have they’ve been keeping it to themselves, but people who have sought refuge, they have actively denied them that,” he added, “and now we ask this question in this global community that we are all a part of: Am I my brother’s keeper? The answer is yes.”

Brown’s message of being his “brother’s keeper” doesn’t end on screen. It also extends offscreen.

Back in January, when the “This Is Us” actor won the Screen Actors Guild Award for lead actor in a drama series, becoming the first black actor to do so in the category, Brown was asked backstage about black Hollywood’s responsibly to black media outlets.

Jaleesa Lashay of Black Tree TV, which bills itself as the “number one source for urban entertainment,” specifically asked him about the “disparities between the opportunities given to black journalists in comparison to our white counterparts” and if there was a “plan in Hollywood” to correct it.

Brown, in the moment said, “You know what? I’ve never paid attention,” but noted that the media room was indeed lacking diversity.

Nearly two months later, the actor said he’s thought about that question a great deal.

“If you have an opportunity to make sure that a competent individual of color is getting access to you — because everybody wants to have access, lots of people do,” Brown began, “I feel like I can do that. That’s the least I could do.”

Brown said he even went a step further and had a “conversation with my publicist to make sure we’re on the same page about things, but letting it be known that it’s something that I want to do to make sure that people aren’t being shut out.”

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‘This Is Us’ vs. ‘Black Panther’: Sterling K. Brown Reveals Which Secrets Were Tougher to Keep (Exclusive)

March 01, 2018

Sterling spoke with Entertainment Tonight Online on keeping secrets on his projects:

Warning: Stop! Do not proceed if you do not wish to be spoiled on recent episodes of This Is Us or the events of Black Panther…

Which secret was harder for Sterling K. Brown to keep under wraps these last several months: Jack’s death on This Is Us or his spoiler-filled role in Black Panther? The answer may surprise you.

It wasn’t until recently that the series-long mystery of how Jack died was finally addressed on This Is Us, and in the aftermath, Brown said there was “a sense of relief” for the cast and producers once the question was answered. And when Brown joined the Black Panther cast in January 2017, details about his character outside of his name, N’Jobu, were under lock and key — and for good reason. In the movie, it’s revealed that Brown’s N’Jobu was Erik Killmonger’s father and T’Chaka’s brother, making T’Challa his nephew.

“You know what? I got asked about how Jack dies so much, that was probably the harder one to answer,” Brown told ET on Tuesday while promoting his partnership with Clorox and Thrive Collective, a non-profit focused on providing arts and mentoring programs for at-risk youth. “With regards to Black Panther, I just didn’t say anything because I knew the Marvel universe — like, I was not going to have the whole thing collapse because Brown has loose lips. So, I would say that Jack is probably the one that I got asked to keep closest to.”

Now that Black Panther has been in theaters for two weeks, Brown pointed to one specific N’Jobu spoiler he’s looking forward to freely discussing.

“The relationship with Killmonger was the thing we were trying most desperately to keep under wraps,” Brown shared. “To recognize this complicated relationship between this African American youth and this mythical African country sort of exemplifies African Americans’ relationship with Africa today and this sense of disconnectedness that comes from that. And to see that in N’Jobu, you have someone who’s trying to — in his own misguided way — bridge that connection. His son took that a step further in maybe not the best way either.”

“The movie is everything that you want from a Marvel Cinematic Universe film in terms of bells and whistles, but it has such a social consciousness about it and it asks really important questions in terms of: What is our responsibility to one another in a global society today?” he continued. “I think Ryan [Coogler] and Joe Robert Cole, the writers, really answer that question in a beautiful way. We are our brother’s keeper but we have to do so with responsibility and integrity.”

In Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa’s father, Wakandan king T’Chaka, was killed by a bomb attack during a conference, but he remained a large presence in Black Panther through T’Challa’s visits to the ancestral plain. Has Brown thought about a feasible idea that could bring N’Jobu, who was killed by his brother T’Chaka, back for the likely sequel in some shape or form?

“I have not contemplated my pitch,” the 41-year-old actor said with a laugh. “I figured it was just going to be a one-off and be happy with the fact that it was a one-off. I have a great day job on This Is Us. It affords me opportunities during my hiatus to be a part of something as magical as Black Panther, and it also keeps me at home with my family, with my wife and kids.”

Brown also addressed fans’ desires for Black Panther to make a dent in the Oscar race in 2019. Acknowledging that the early release in the typical Oscar calendar year may be a detriment, there are exceptions (see: Oscar nominee Get Out, which was released last February) and he was hopeful about the idea.

“If Panther has that kind of longevity and legs…,” Brown trailed off. “The movie is an important part of cinematic history. It’s going to be studied for a long time to come, and it’s such an empowering film for people of color to see themselves in this universe and have such strength that it stands a chance.”

Brown was adamant about one thing, though, making an Oscar declaration that doesn’t seem far off the mark at all. “I think Ryan Coogler is one of the great storytellers of this generation and he’s going to keep killing it for many years to come. One day, he’s going to get a statue. Whether it’s on this one or something to come in the future is not for me to determine.”

Wakanda forever.

Black Panther is in theaters now.

Sterling K. Brown Cast in Marvel’s Black Panther

January 09, 2017

The star-studded cast of Black Panther just got brighter. Sterling K. Brown, the breakout star of This Is Us and The People v. O.J. Simpson, has signed on for a role in the upcoming superhero movie, Marvel Studios announced Thursday.

He’ll portray N’Jobu, a figure from the titular hero’s past.

Brown joins an ensemble that includes Chadwick Boseman as the Wakandan leader and protector T’Challa/Black Panther, as well as Michael B. Jordan, Forest Whitaker, Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, and Danai Gurira. Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) is directing the film, which is scheduled to hit theaters Feb. 16, 2018.

Responding to the announcement on Twitter, Brown said he’s “Beyond thrilled to be joining this immensely talented group of actors & storytellers!” He added, “Thank you for a seat at the table!”

Brown, 40, had a big year in 2016, winning an Emmy for his performance as Christopher Darden in The People v. O.J. Simpson and starring in the new NBC series This Is Us. He’s also up for a Golden Globe tonight for his People v. O.J. work.

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