Michael B. Jordan reveals Denzel Washington’s unexpected influence on Killmonger in "Black Panther"

The Marvel star took a leaf out of Denzel Washington's "Glory" playbook to create Killmonger

Published June 7, 2019 6:45PM (EDT)

Michael B. Jordan as  N'Jadaka / Erik "Killmonger" Stevens in "Black Panther" (Marvel Studios)
Michael B. Jordan as N'Jadaka / Erik "Killmonger" Stevens in "Black Panther" (Marvel Studios)

This article originally appeared on IndieWire.

Hollywood turned out in droves last night for an AFI gala honoring Denzel Washington with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Everyone from Jamie Foxx to Spike Lee wanted a chance to speak about the massive impact Washington has made during his four decades in film. From his career-defining role as Malcom X to his more recent triumph directing “Fences,” his filmography leaves no shortage of material for gushing anecdotes.

When Michael B. Jordan took the mic, he dropped a fascinating piece of film trivia: Killmonger’s scars in “Black Panther” were inspired by Washington.

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Jordan’s brutal Marvel villain is instantly recognizable for the geometric array of scars that cover his torso, each signifying a past kill. But the star says the idea came from Washington’s Oscar-winning role in “Glory.” The 1989 film, which follows the bravery and adversity of an all-black infantry unit during the Civil War, is widely recognized as one of the highlights of Washington’s career. His performance as Private Silas Trip, a former slave with scars from a lifetime of unjust punishment, is still influencing actors such as Jordan.

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“I heard stories that when you were huddled around the campfire in that film, [“Glory”], you weren’t supposed to be shirtless, but you still had the scars put on your back, so you could feel it, so you could know that’s what your character’s been through,” Jordan recalled. ” I tell you right now tonight brother, that’s the only reason why Killmonger, when I played that role, I had those scars, even when I wasn’t shirtless, because of you, so I want to say thank you for that.”

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There is obviously a discussion to be had about the ways in which Denzel Washington’s Hollywood success paved the way for films like “Black Panther” to exist in the first place. Jordan’s costar Chadwick Boseman was even more blunt in his praise, saying “There would be no ‘Black Panther’ without Denzel Washington.” But Jordan’s respect for Washington’s physicality underscores why he received the AFI award in the first place. As long as there are movies, there will be actors taking notes from Denzel.

By Christian Zilko

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