Just a handful of scenes in 2018’s “Black Panther” made Winston Duke an overnight celebrity. Now he’s back with a bigger role in the much-hyped sequel, Wakanda Forever, and unlocking new powers as an artist. But as the cerebral star prepares for a new level of fame, he’s mourning the loss of his closest confidante—his mother, Mama Coco—and searching for deeper meaning in every aspect of his life.
On the kinds of films Duke is drawn to doing: “I want to lean into what I consider the epic. Black Panther’s an epic. I look at Nine Days as an epic. Us is an epic, the proportions and the scale. It’s that the world is ending, or that the stakes of the situation require major transformation to get through.”
On transitioning from life in Tobago to New York as a child: “I never had this, like, teenage angst. I did go through bouts of teenage depression. I come from a culture where people are warm-blooded, warm culture. When they talk, sometimes they talk real close to you. Americans feel entitled to space.”
On being at a service for Chadwick Boseman, where there was an attempt to do a “Wakanda” chant as a send-off for the actor: “It just was like, ‘Leave that outside,’ you know? The moment was begging you to leave it outside and be in the moment here. It was emotionally intimate. You needed to be held, but you’re trying to do all the social distancing. It hurt really bad just seeing how small the box was. I was standing there in complete disbelief saying, ‘Where’s the rest of it? Where’s the rest of everything?’”
On the recent death of his mother: “There’s so much grief. It’s a strange feeling, grief, because it just erupts at any given moment. I feel like, at this moment, I need to sound positive, uplifting. But I don’t really have that. What I can say is that I miss the best person that I think I’ve ever known so far in my life.”
“Super.Hero.” by Hunter Harris is on Esquire.com now and in the new Winter issue, available everywhere by November 29.
[Photo Credit: AB+DM for Esquire Magazine]
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