Winston Duke knows a whole lot of Black Panther fans want him to be the next King of Wakanda. Honestly? He’s into the idea. The ending of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever left much to the imagination, but Duke is ready for his character, the wise-cracking M’Baku, to take over the throne.
In Esquire's Winter issue cover story starring Duke—and in the latest episode of “Explain This”—the actor dove into the weighty subject of M'Baku’s reign. While Wakanda Forever doesn't explicitly name M'Baku as king, Duke didn't mince his words. “M’Baku is unapologetic. Very proud. A bit conservative,” Duke explains in the cover story. “It’s kind of a shocking, and, for me, very exciting moment. I get to wonder now what kind of king he will be.”
Turn back now if you still haven't seen Wakanda Forever. Still here? OK. At one point in the film, M’Baku arrives at Wakanda's sacred waterfall to fight for the throne. This is after he helped Shuri defeat Namor. After Wakanda Forever's final battle, Shuri jets to Haiti—which leaves M’Baku’s role in Wakanda going forward somewhat unsettled. In the "Explain This" video, Duke reiterates, "It's kind of cool, though, being revealed as the King of Wakanda at the end of the movie... That's huge. So, whatever that entails, it's gonna be a fun one."
When asked if was excited for his character to (potentially!) become the star of the franchise, Duke says, “I don’t like to think of it that way. I don’t agree that it’s in any way mine. Both Black Panther movies are really defined by its ensemble. And it was forced to be defined by its ensemble. When you lose your titular character, it was then placed on the shoulders of the group to pull the story together.”
Humility: one of the many reasons we love Winston Duke. “The power of what Marvel has become, is that it doesn’t belong to any one actor or any one lead or character,” he adds. If fans are paying attention, he says, “they’ll see it.”
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