Warning: Stop! Do not proceed if you do not wish to be spoiled on recent episodes of This Is Us or the events of Black Panther...
Which secret was harder for Sterling K. Brown to keep under wraps these last several months: Jack's death on This Is Us or his spoiler-filled role in Black Panther? The answer may surprise you.
It wasn't until recently that the series-long mystery of how Jack died was finally addressed on This Is Us, and in the aftermath, Brown said there was "a sense of relief" for the cast and producers once the question was answered. And when Brown joined the Black Panther cast in January 2017, details about his character outside of his name, N'Jobu, were under lock and key -- and for good reason. In the movie, it's revealed that Brown's N'Jobu was Erik Killmonger's father and T'Chaka's brother, making T'Challa his nephew.
“You know what? I got asked about how Jack dies so much, that was probably the harder one to answer," Brown told ET on Tuesday while promoting his partnership with Clorox and Thrive Collective, a non-profit focused on providing arts and mentoring programs for at-risk youth. "With regards to Black Panther, I just didn’t say anything because I knew the Marvel universe -- like, I was not going to have the whole thing collapse because Brown has loose lips. So, I would say that Jack is probably the one that I got asked to keep closest to.”
Now that Black Panther has been in theaters for two weeks, Brown pointed to one specific N'Jobu spoiler he's looking forward to freely discussing.
“The relationship with Killmonger was the thing we were trying most desperately to keep under wraps," Brown shared. "To recognize this complicated relationship between this African American youth and this mythical African country sort of exemplifies African Americans’ relationship with Africa today and this sense of disconnectedness that comes from that. And to see that in N’Jobu, you have someone who’s trying to -- in his own misguided way -- bridge that connection. His son took that a step further in maybe not the best way either.”
“The movie is everything that you want from a Marvel Cinematic Universe film in terms of bells and whistles, but it has such a social consciousness about it and it asks really important questions in terms of: What is our responsibility to one another in a global society today?" he continued. "I think Ryan [Coogler] and Joe Robert Cole, the writers, really answer that question in a beautiful way. We are our brother’s keeper but we have to do so with responsibility and integrity.”
In Captain America: Civil War, T'Challa's father, Wakandan king T'Chaka, was killed by a bomb attack during a conference, but he remained a large presence in Black Panther through T'Challa's visits to the ancestral plain. Has Brown thought about a feasible idea that could bring N'Jobu, who was killed by his brother T'Chaka, back for the likely sequel in some shape or form?
“I have not contemplated my pitch," the 41-year-old actor said with a laugh. "I figured it was just going to be a one-off and be happy with the fact that it was a one-off. I have a great day job on This Is Us. It affords me opportunities during my hiatus to be a part of something as magical as Black Panther, and it also keeps me at home with my family, with my wife and kids."
Brown also addressed fans' desires for Black Panther to make a dent in the Oscar race in 2019. Acknowledging that the early release in the typical Oscar calendar year may be a detriment, there are exceptions (see: Oscar nominee Get Out, which was released last February) and he was hopeful about the idea.
"If Panther has that kind of longevity and legs...," Brown trailed off. "The movie is an important part of cinematic history. It’s going to be studied for a long time to come, and it’s such an empowering film for people of color to see themselves in this universe and have such strength that it stands a chance."
Brown was adamant about one thing, though, making an Oscar declaration that doesn't seem far off the mark at all. "I think Ryan Coogler is one of the great storytellers of this generation and he’s going to keep killing it for many years to come. One day, he’s going to get a statue. Whether it’s on this one or something to come in the future is not for me to determine.”
Black Panther is in theaters now.
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