MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - When Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman died from cancer last week, it was a blow for fans in Memphis and across the world.
WMC Action News 5 sat down with the Memphian whose novel was the blueprint for the Black Panther screenplay to discuss this great loss and the repercussions for the Marvel Studios franchise.
Orange Mound native and Ole Miss alum Jesse J. Holland says Chadwick Boseman was beyond talented.
“First and foremost, he was kind and gentle,” said Jesse J. Holland, author of Black Panther novel.
Marvel Entertainment commissioned Holland to write the first Black Panther novel “Who is the Black Panther” -- the blueprint for the 2018 blockbuster screenplay.
“It was just an utter shock to me. I mean, I’m actually having chills, even now talking to you about this. Thinking back about how I felt when I heard that Chadwick Boseman was dead,” said Holland.
Holland says Boseman brought Black legends to life.
“It’s a huge loss for African Americans, not only in the United States, but around the world because he was the face of so many of our icons,” said Holland. “He will be the face of Jackie Robinson, he will be the face of Thurgood Marshall, he will be the face of James Brown, and of course to them he will always be Black Panther.”
Holland spent time with Boseman right before the film debuted in 2018.
“He was fighting cancer that entire time I was sitting there talking to him. So it was just a huge shock.”
He remembers a chuckle with the actor, who many didn’t know was from the south.
“I asked him to hear his original Southern accent, and he pulled his Southern accent with the y’alls out for me there in studio. He said, ’this is how I spoke growing up, but I’m an actor I can do any kind of voice, so I don’t use it all the time,” said Holland. “So he pulled out his original South Carolinian Southern accent for me. That was a treasure.”
Holland appreciates how much his hometown supported the film, dressing up in character for the full experience.
“The Black Panther movie got more support in Memphis than just about anywhere around the country.”
He chimed in on a social media debate to retire the Black Panther franchise.
“I completely disagree with that.”
Holland says the film broke barriers with an African American cast leading a billion-dollar film franchise.
“For me, Christopher Reeve will always be Superman. For me, Tobey Maguire will always be Spider Man. For me, Sean Connery will always be James Bond. For me, Chadwick Boseman will always be Black Panther,” said Holland. “But this character, this mythology is so important, we have to keep telling those stories.”
Holland says he is working on a secret Black Panther project.
“Sometime next year, there’s going to be a Black Panther Anthology, which is a bunch of African heritage, authors, from around not only the United States but from around the world will be telling their own stories of Wakanda,” said Holland. “I can’t tell you too much about it, but I can tell you that I suspect people in Memphis will absolutely love it.”
And he can’t wait to plant his feet on home soil.
“I want to give a shout out to my parents, who now live in Holly Springs, Mississippi, along with my brother and my two sisters. I have family all over the Mid-South. And I can’t wait for this whole coronavirus thing to be over with, so I can come home and see all of you.”