Disclaimer: This article contains serious spoilers about Marvel’s Black Panther.
After news first surfaced a few months back that Sterling K. Brown would have a role in Marvel’s Black Panther, the studio kept the This Is Us actor’s role under tight wraps.
The role was so secretly kept, Brown never appeared in any trailers or promo material, so the average moviegoer was likely very shocked to see Brown appear in the first few minutes of the film.
After an opening sequence about the history of Wakanda, the first official scene of Black Panther is set in Oakland, California in 1992.
In it, we see Brown and a character portrayed by Denzel Whitaker seemingly planning for some sort of operation involving many guns.
They continue to scheme before the Dora Milaje show up at their door. It turns out, these Dora troops are accompanied by the then-Black Panther, King T’Chaka. Brown and Whitaker’s characters continue to speak English and talk in American accents, so their connection to Wakanda is not yet revealed.
Then, the whole scene comes together.
Brown plays N’Jobu, brother of T’Chaka. He was sent to the U.S. as a Wakandan undercover agent, but realized that Wakanda’s isolationist policies have been letting a great deal of harm happen to underrepresented populations across the world. He worked with Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) to steal some vibranium from Wakanda, which resulted in explosions in his own homeland. Because of this, T’Chaka says N’Jobu must come back home to stand trial for what he’s done. He also reveals Whitaker’s character as Zuri, another Wakandan spy, who has been communicating with T’Chaka this whole time. Understanding this betrayal, N’Jobu pulls a gun on them both before T’Chaka intervenes and kills him.
Later in the movie, we discover that N’Jadaka, whose American name is Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) is the son of N’Jobu. All of his plans begin to make sense to viewers as well. He found his father with claw marks in his chest from the Black Panther and learned about Wakanda, vibranium and everything else about his culture from items his father left. As a result, his life’s mission has been to return to Wakanda to avenge his father’s death, as well as open up all of Wakanda’s resources to the rest of the world, even if this means death.
In the present day, that includes killing T’Chaka’s son, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and the now old and wise Zuri (Forest Whitaker).
So, while Brown only appeared in the first few minutes of the movie and in a few flashbacks midway through, he and his character arguably drove the storyline for the entire film. Plus, this makes him, since Disney owns the Marvel Cinematic Universe…a Disney prince?
Also, knowing what we know now, it makes sense why Brown’s character was never revealed beforehand, since none of this is in the Marvel comic book canon. T’Chaka did not have a brother who betrayed the country and Killmonger and T’Challa are not first cousins. In the comics, N’Jadaka grew up in Wakanda before he and his family had to go into exile (after his father assisted Klaue). They ended up in New York where he ended up going to MIT and changed his name to Erik Killmonger.
These character’s storylines in the film are a welcome twist and a perfect way to include the Brown who is on a heck of a run right now, in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.
Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright and Winston Duke, with Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker and Andy Serkis.
The film is directed by Ryan Coogler and produced by Kevin Feige with Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Nate Moore, Jeffrey Chernov and Stan Lee serving as executive producers. Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole wrote the screenplay.
Black Panther is in theaters now.