Chadwick Boseman Chose His Black Panther Accent to Make a Point About White Supremacy
The whole point of Wakanda is that it is a truly isolated nation—isolated by its people’s own choosing, turning itself into a technological utopia away from the influence of people beyond its borders. That isolation became crucial to Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of Black Panther, because he wanted the hero to speak “without colonialism tainting it.”
Speaking to CNET about Wakanda’s identity and evolution, Boseman had a frank reaction to being asked about the accent he developed while playing T’Challa in both Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther. Why doesn’t a European-educated man like T’Challa speak with a European accent? For Boseman, it came down to a simple fact: T’Challa speaks like a Wakandan, because Wakanda evolved and thrived without the taint of Colonialism that ravaged the African continent:
People think about how race has affected the world. It’s not just in the States. Colonialism is the cousin of slavery. Colonialism in Africa would have it that, in order to be a ruler, his education comes from Europe. I wanted to be completely sure that we didn’t convey that idea because that would be counter to everything that Wakanda is about. It’s supposed to be the most technologically advanced nation on the planet. If it’s supposed to not have been conquered — which means that advancement has happened without colonialism tainting it, poisoning the well of it, without stopping it or disrupting it — then there’s no way he would speak with a European accent.
If I did that, I would be conveying a white supremacist idea of what being educated is and what being royal or presidential is. Because it’s not just about him running around fighting. He’s the ruler of a nation. And if he’s the ruler of a nation, he has to speak to his people. He has to galvanize his people. And there’s no way I could speak to my people, who have never been conquered by Europeans, with a European voice.
It’s a refreshingly honest response, and one that makes sense—not just for T’Challa as a character but for Wakandans in general, given the pride they hold in the country’s ruthlessly-defended isolation. Projecting that through their voice and the way they speak makes a clear message even clearer.