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Before Wakanda: 15 Embarrassing Roles For Black Panther Stars

by  in Lists, Movies Comment
Before Wakanda: 15 Embarrassing Roles For Black Panther Stars

As Black Panther continues to smash box office records as one of the biggest superhero hit movies in years, critics and fans alike have marveled at how amazing the cast was in the film. Chadwick Boseman was the picture of heroic cool, Michael B. Jordan was one of the best movie supervillains of all-time and Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira and Letitia Wright all got numerous opportunities to shine in a film that was more than willing to let the female characters take on almost an equal weight of the film’s action. The cast was just outstanding in a movie that is being hailed as groundbreaking, and rightfully so.

When you reflect on a cast as good as this one, though, it is interesting to look back and see how, as good as they all are, they each have had at least one project that they might not want to look back on with quite as much honor as they do their performances in Black Panther. That’s just being an actor, of course! Still we’ve combed through their back catalogs and here, we present you with the most embarrassing roles of the cast of Black Panther.

15. CHADWICK BOSEMAN IN GODS OF EGYPT

Before he was playing a larger-than-life superhero in Captain America: Civil War and now Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman had already had a lot of experience playing different kinds of heroes, as he played both Jackie Robinson and James Brown in two acclaimed performances (that likely led to him being cast as Black Panther).

However, with his rise in stardom, he also got a chance that many actors get — to play a big character in an over-the-top CGI-heavy action film. In Boseman’s case, it was playing Thoth in 2016’s Gods of Egypt, which was nominated for a number of Razzies (the Oscars for bad movies) including Worst Movie, Worst Director and Worst On-Screen Couple (in this case, it was “Any 2 Egyptian Gods or Mortals”). It’s a rite of passage for most actors, and Boseman handled it with good-natured aplomb.

14. MICHAEL B. JORDAN IN ALL MY CHILDREN

Another rite of passage for many actors is doing a stint on a soap opera. In a lot of ways, that was the problem with some of the wonderful young actors that debuted on the acclaimed HBO drama, The Wire. Once you start your career off with something as spectacular as The Wire, you may have peaked early, while you’re still very young. Thus, you have to take whatever job that you can get. In the case of Michael B. Jordan, he followed up his iconic performance as the ill-fated Wallace on The Wire with a stint on All My Children as Reggie Montgomery in 2004-05.

Considering Jordan’s unique haircut in Black Panther, we should not be surprised by the dreadlocks he was rocking in All My Children. One of the strangest things about Jordan’s role as Reggie, though, is that the role was actually originated in 2003 by none other than… Chadwick Boseman!

13. LUPITA NYONG’O IN NON-STOP

Yet another rite of passage for a number of actors is that awkward experience between the release of your breakout role, which is then sometimes followed up by other films that were filmed before your breakout role but were released after you hit it big. This is often an awkward scenario when the second film comes out, because they, in effect, accidentally ended up with a famous cast member, but they weren’t when they filmed the movie, so their role is very tiny.

That’s what happened with Lupita Nyong’o when she booked a gig in the Liam Neeson “stopping the bad guys while trapped on a passenger plane” film, Non-Stop, and followed that up with her Academy Award performance in 12 Years a Slave. Non-Stop was released after 12 Years a Slave, so all of Nyong’o’s new fans got to watch her barely appear on screen throughout her next film.

12. DANAI GURIRA IN AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: DOLLEY MADISON

Fans of The Walking Dead were not surprised at all to see how great Okoye was in a fight because they’ve seen Danai Gurira show her stuff for many years as the katana-wielding Michonne on the hit zombie show. However, early in Gurira’s career, she, too, went through a typical rite of passage for young actors — she appeared in a historical recreation!

Gurira appeared in the PBS TV series, American Experience, which told the story of Dolley Madison (wife of President James Madison and the woman who originated the tradition that we now know of as “First Lady”) through reenactments and acted-out letters. Late in life, Madison suffered financial hardship and she had to sell off her estate piece by piece. Gurira plays one of her slaves who begs Madison to not break up the families of her slaves.

11. MARTIN FREEMAN IN ALI G: INDAHOUSE

Unlike most of the other examples on this list, Martin Freeman’s performance in the 2002 film, Ali G: Indahouse, was always intended to be goofy. So you could argue that we should pick another example, one that was unintentionally funny. However, this film is just so ridiculous that we can’t help but still think it ranks up there as an embarrassing part of Freeman’s career.

In the film, Freeman plays Richard “Ricky C” Cunningham, a member of Da West Staines Massiv, an ostensible gang in Staines led by Ali G, Sacha Baron Cohen’s satirical character who has graduated from his own television series to his own film. We don’t think that you can properly prepare yourself for the sight of Martin Freeman beatboxing while wearing a mesh tank top, rings and a cap slightly askew.

10. DANIEL KALUUYA IN SKINS

Launched in 2007, the British television series, Skins, was a big hit but also a major source of controversy. The show tried to depict teen life in a frank manner, including teen sexuality. It worked in England, but when MTV tried to adapt it for the United States a few years later, it failed miserably as advertisers wouldn’t support a series that dealt so openly with teen sex.

Daniel Kaluuya played a goofy minor character on the original run of the series (it replaced the cast every two seasons) called Posh Kenneth. Meanwhile, Kaluuya was actually on the writing staff of the series and was the main writer on a couple of episodes. Amazingly enough, when Kaluuya was nominated for an Academy Award for Get Out, he was the second Skins alum nominated for an Oscar. Dev Patel, nominated in 2017 for Lion, was also on Skins.

9. LETITIA WRIGHT IN THE COMMUTER

One of the breakout stars in Black Panther was also one of its youngest cast members, Letitia Wright, who played Black Panther’s younger sister, Shuri. Wright is only 24 years old but has already put together an impressive string of critically acclaimed performances in independent films leading up to her work in Black Panther. She also starred in a well-received episode of Black Mirror.

However, just a month ago, she followed in Lupita Nyong’o’s footsteps by having a small role in a Liam Neeson film, this time it is a “stopping the bad guys while trapped on a passenger train” film, The Commuter (Neeson has such great range. Let’s see him stop some bad guys on a bus next time). Her role is so tiny that it would almost be better described as a cameo. But hey, she made it into the film’s trailer!

8. WINSTON DUKE IN MODERN FAMILY

In Black Panther, Winston Duke was a scene-stealer as M’Baku, the leader of the mountain people known as the Jabari. He shows up in movie wearing a mask made out of the head of an ape (a nod to the character’s sketchy comic book origins as the villainous Man-Ape). However, he wore a different sort of head gear when he appeared on Modern Family in Season 7 of that hit TV sitcom.

Duke played Dwight, a high school football star whose father moves out of town. His football coach, Cameron Tucker, can’t deal with losing his star player so he agrees to let Dwight stay at his home (without mentioning it to his husband or his adopted daughter, Lily). Dwight soon becomes part of the family, including enjoying fun dress-up tea parties.

7. ANGELA BASSETT IN THE COSBY SHOW

Considering how much of a force of nature that Angela Bassett has been for decades, it is amazing to note how long it took for her career to really start taking off. She graduated in 1983 with a degree from the Yale School of Drama, but while she found work in two plays by the great August Wilson (1984’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and 1986’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone), steadier acting jobs were scarce.

Joining the Screen Actor’s Guild after appearing in the 1986 film, F/X, Bassett moved to Los Angeles in the late 1980s and her career really stated to take off. While still in New York, she (like many black New York actors of the era) appeared in a couple of episodes of The Cosby Show, including one as a member of Claire’s book club, where Ms. Bassett, as always, rocked an arresting look (and totally owned it).

6. FOREST WHITAKER IN DIFF’RENT STROKES

Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker was a connection to the past for T’Challa in Black Panther as the late King T’Chaka’s closest ally, Zuri. Whitaker broke into movies almost 40 years ago as one of the many future famous names who made their debuts in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The film was also the debut of fellow Academy Award winning actor, Nicolas Cage, as well as notable actors, Anthony Edwards and Eric Stoltz.

However, finding good roles was difficult for Whitaker in the early 1980s, as his size pigeon-holed him into the role of brutes, like the bully character he played in the final season of Diff’rent Strokes (Whitaker’s head was practically the size of Gary Coleman’s whole body!) Luckily, he eventually got roles that showed off his range later in the decade.

5. ANDY SERKIS IN WOMAN

Ulysses Klaue was a great opportunity for Andy Serkis to show how good of an actor that he is when he is not being turned into some sort of creature through computer graphics. Serkis is best known for his motion-capture performances as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, King Kong in King Kong and Caesar in the recent Planet of the Apes films.

However, he has been a traditional actor for decades, as well. One of his oddest performance came in the music video to the Nenah Cherry song, “Woman,” where Serkis (wearing a shirt featuring Reed Richards for some reason) gets into a bar fight and shoots the other man dead using only his finger. It is a weird music video… which might be a bit redundant.

4. FLORENCE KASUMBA IN EMERALD CITY

Most of the characters in Black Panther debuted in this film, with a few exceptions. Serkis’ Klaue first showed up in Avengers: Age of Ultron, while T’Challa and his father, T’Chaka, both made their debuts in Captain America: Civil War. Along for the ride in Civil War was one of Black Panther’s Dora Milaje, Ayo, played by Florence Kasumba.

Kasumba is no stranger to playing over-the-top characters like the bodyguard for a superhero, as she played an Amazon Senator in last year’s Wonder Woman. However, she also played the strange Wicked Witch of the East in the odd take on the Wizard of Oz in the short-lived NBC drama series, Emerald City, which followed the recent trend of doing dark versions of every kid’s story possible.

3. STERLING K. BROWN IN MASTERS OF SEX

Before his Emmy Award-winning turn as Christoper Darden in The People vs. OJ Simpson (which soon led to his current series, This is Us, which he has also won an Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Drama), Sterling K. Brown has been a long-running character actor. He has the type of voice that screams “authority figure” and as such, he has mostly played cops and lawyers in his past series (almost always just for one episode), although he has worked in some criminal roles, as well.

One of his least inspiring roles was when he played a Civil Rights lawyer in a single episode of Masters of Sex. Being a minor character in a B-plot on a cable drama like Masters of Sex was not the greatest opportunity for the otherwise hugely-talented Brown.

2. DENZEL WHITAKER IN ALL THAT

Despite playing younger versions of Forest Whitaker in both Black Panther and The Great Debaters (a film starring and directed by Denzel Washington, who Whitaker was named after), he is not actually related to the older actor. Whitaker did a great job in the important opening scene of the movie, where he reveals that he is working undercover for T’Chaka against T’Chaka’s own brother.

There are few things less flashy in show business than being the featured player on a sketch show. Well, try being a featured player on a kid’s sketch show. Now throw in the fact that it is the final season of the kid’s sketch show. That was the situation that Whitaker was in when he joined the cast of Nickelodeon’s sketch series, All That, in its final season. There was lots of stuff like dressing up as Cupid.

1. STAN LEE IN JUGULAR WINE: A VAMPIRE ODYSSEY

There might be an actor or two who appear in the post-credits sequence of the film, but since we don’t want to spoil the experience, we’ll instead take a look at the non-Marvel film career of Stan Lee. Lee, of course, has made cameo appearances in nearly every Marvel film released so far (including every film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe).

However, he has appeared in some non-Marvel films, too. The most ridiculous has got to be his appearance as an anthropology professor in the vampire film, Jugular Wine: A Vampire Odyssey. After being slowly turned into a vampire, an anthropology graduate student returns to New York from Alaska and runs into his professor (Lee) and his fellow grad student (star comic book writer/artist Frank Miller). The vampire’s evil influence later leads to Lee murdering Miller! And you get to hear Stan Lee curse! It’s quite a trip!

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