The Time Black Panther's Crew Forgot To Tell Sterling K. Brown He'd Need A Wakandan Accent

Sterling K. Brown as N'Jobu in Oakland scene in Black Panther
(Image credit: (Marvel Studios))

When Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa debuted in Captain America: Civil War, audiences were also introduced to his silky Wakandan accent. When Black Panther delved deeper into the hero's fictional country of origin, it was up to the ensemble cast to replicate the specific dialect too. But when Sterling K. Brown initially signed on for his scenes as N'Jobu, he didn't get the memo. Oops! Here's what he said:

No one had necessarily communicated to me that there was a specific accent that we were going for until I showed up on set. I had worked on this whole other thing. ... So you go back to the drawing board, you sit in your hotel room and you listen to accent tapes and the dialogue coach's suggestions and you just do it over and over again until you feel like it's right.

Sterling K. Brown tightly squeezed in his small role in Black Panther between his rigorous shooting schedule for NBC's This Is Us as Randall Pearson.

The award-winning television actor had been working on a particularly emotional episode of the series in Season 1 titled "Memphis," similarly focusing on the lost relationship between a father and son. So he didn't have much room to think through his Black Panther character's accent until he reached the set.

Even though it was a last minute surprise for Sterling K. Brown, he worked through it anyway for the couple of scenes as Killmonger's father. It paid off too -- for the few minutes the actor is seen, he completely steals the screen. While the actor doesn't seem confident he nailed the accent, he understood the weight of the role as his priority. He continued to Variety with this:

I had to focus on one of two things: it's either the accent or the acting --- and not trying to sacrifice one over the other, but if the accent is not quite up to snuff, so be it, as long as the truth of N'Jobu's trials and tribulations is communicated.

While Sterling K. Brown originally auditioned for Jabari tribe leader M'Baku, played by Winston Duke in Black Panther, director Ryan Coogler later asked him to play N'Jobu instead. Brown instantly felt he could understand the position of the character, who became disloyal to his country of Wakanda in an effort to help the disadvantaged black community in Oakland, California.

The Wakandan accent was created by Chadwick Boseman and a dialect coach he hired. They had previously worked together to perfect a South African accent for another film role. Initially, Marvel execs weren't sure the accent would play well with audiences, but Boseman felt uncomfortable with just going with an American or British accent for a film about an African native.

Considering Black Panther topped the 2018 domestic box office chart, and is now being considered for a few categories at the Oscars, the cast's commitment to the Wakandan accent was well worth the effort. Fans are hoping to see several Black Panther characters return in Marvel's Avengers: Endgame, which opens in theaters April 26. Check out our 2019 movie release guide for more big dates ahead.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.