Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger Scars For Black Panther Were Inspired By Denzel Washington

Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger in Black Panther
(Image credit: (Marvel))

Marvel made history last year with the release of Black Panther -- a monumental achievement for box office records, diversity in Hollywood, and superhero flicks. Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger especially stood out, as his intricate villain showcased tragic commentary about the black experience.

Apparently, the character's iconic crocodile scarring -- which signifies each one of Killmonger’s murders over the years -- was actually inspired by one of Denzel Washington’s famed roles. While the legendary actor was being given an honor at the 47th AFI Life Achievement Gala, Michael B. Jordan spoke of the inspiration. In Jordan's words:

I remember hearing stories about you and 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. 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.

Looks like Black Panther owes some of its influence to Denzel Washington’s role of Silas Trip in 1989’s Glory. The Civil War drama that earned Washington his first Oscar has the actor playing a soldier with scars on his back to show the violent punishments Silas received as a slave. As Michael B. Jordan said at the annual gala (via EW), he’d heard Washington asked to have Silas don the scars in the scenes to impact the audience more deeply about the movie’s chronicle of slave soldiers fighting for their freedom.

Denzel Washington in Glory

(Image credit: (TriStar))

Black Panther took a note from Glory in this regard by showing the character’s pain through his own scars on his back and chest. There’s something especially visceral about seeing all the kills Michael B. Jordan’s character has physically on him. It creates this additional feeling and rawness to the villain that certainly contributed to Killmonger delivering one of the best performances in a comic book movie.

Denzel Washington has previously praised Black Panther, revealing he cried the first time he watched it at the film’s premiere. The actor said, as he sat in the audience, he felt the weight of the film on Hollywood that he had never seen in his 40-year career. Washington is certainly one of the most successful black actors to date, but one of a select few who have made it that far in the game.

Denzel Washington once revealed that Marvel has never approached him for a role, but teased his interest with the words "never say never." Wouldn't it be great to see him in Black Panther 2? Michael B. Jordan’s presence in the planned sequel to be written and directed by Ryan Coogler is unclear, considering his fate at the end of first movie.

But who knows? Considering the events of Avengers: Endgame, perhaps his fate will be retconned? Stay tuned with us here on CinemaBlend for more MCU updates as they come!

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.