Black Panther author grew up in Memphis

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A Mid-South native wrote the official Marvel Universe Black Panther novel--Black Panther: Who Is The Black Panther?

"It's just incredible, the enthusiasm, for this new movie and I'm just glad to be a little part of it," smiled Jesse J. Holland from his Washington, D.C. home Thursday.

Holland spoke with WMC Action News 5's Kontji Anthony via Skype about his early days, and what catapulted him to the top of the pop-fiction publishing world.

He is known as the it-man when Hollywood needs someone to lay the groundwork for ethnic characters in blockbuster films like Black Panther or Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

"I had actually established myself as an historian, but then Lucas Films came to me and said, 'We have this new movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and we have this character called Finn.  We need someone to write a history for Finn,'" Holland recalled.

He jumped at the opportunity and his first novel was born--a storyline that took him back to his roots.

"Star Wars was the very first movie I saw in Memphis.  The very first movie I saw in a theater in Memphis," he explained.

Holland was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi.

"I was actually born in Holly Springs, but right after I was born, my parents moved to Memphis.  So I actually grew up in Orange Mound," Holland added.  "My dad, for years, taught at Trezevant and Melrose and Treadwell."

Holland went to Hanley and Sea Isle Elementary Schools.

At age eight, the family moved back to Holly Springs, when he soon found his love for writing.

"My mother, for years and years, was an English teacher at H.W. Byers and if I recall, I took 7th and 8th grade English from her," he said.

Holland went on to study journalism at Ole Miss.

"I started writing for the South Reporter newspaper in Holly Springs and then went to work for the Oxford Eagle in Oxford, Mississippi and then started at the Daily Mississippian at the student newspaper at the University of Mississippi," he recollected.

In 2016, Holland got another call.

"Marvel read Finn's story and said, 'Hey, there's this character coming up called the Black Panther.  We need someone to write a history for this character to reintroduce him to America," the studio told Holland.

The husband, father, Associated Press reporter, and Goucher College teacher had six months to get it done.

"So, I was spending four to six hours a day working on this and trying to fit everything else in my life in and around it," he recalled.  "This was my dream job.  Please, please give me an excuse to go back and read my comic books."

Holland, who had been a comic book fan since he was a young boy, was very excited to accept the challenge.

He said he's also seen the movie Black Panther and it does not disappoint. He said the movie features great casting and great writing.

"The sky is completely the limit.  I'm always looking for a cool thing to do next," he beamed.

Holland is not the only Memphis connection to Black Panther. A woman who ran track at University of Memphis also performed stunts for the movie.

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