The Duke of Wakanda
Since appearing in last year’s blockbuster hit, Black Panther, Winston Duke’s life hasn’t been the same. The Yale School of Drama graduate dazzled audiences with his scene-stealing performance as M’Baku, leader of Wakanda’s Jabari Tribe, a breakout effort that thrust him into the spotlight.
“My life’s changed almost in every way,” Duke tells The Crisis. “I’m really thankful for the opportunities that are coming my way, and I’m really just distilling the kind of artist that I want to be and the kind of work that I want to put out.”
In spite of his massive success, the Trinidad and Tobago native says staying close to his family is his top priority.
“I make concerted efforts to keep myself grounded and keep myself around people who remind me of who I am,” the 32-year-old says. “I’m very close to my family and I spend as much time with them as possible to remind me of my heritage.”
Raised by his mother, Cora Pantin, Duke’s upbringing has also informed his decision to use his platform to advocate for a host of issues that affect the Black community.
“I’ve been working with different organizations that reflect my upbringing and my politics,” he says. “I work with the HeForShe program, an initiative by the United Nations. I was raised by women and I continue to be edified by Black women and women of other cultures. I have a lot of allies that work with and around me that make me a stronger man.”
Duke also works with the American Diabetes Association to raise awareness about how Black communities are affected by the disease. “Diabetes has run deeply in my family and taken away a lot of family members, and I know what a silent killer it is,” he says.
While the actor looks up to legends like Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte because both have built successful acting careers while also being politically active and socially aware, he’s been following the lead of Black women creatives like award-winning director Ava DuVernay and his Black Panther co-star and playwright Danai Gurira.
“I’m following the power moves that young Black women are making and that teaches me to be the kind of man that I want to be because they’re always at the forefront of every issue,” Duke says. “They always tend to have the right kind of politics, and be on the right side of history, so why not look at them as my examples?”
Next up for the actor is a starring role in Jordan Peele’s horror feature, Us.
“You don’t get to see a Black father both be strong, romantic and flawed,” Duke says. “This movie has a lot of conversation about Black masculinity, about Black family and about Black community and proximity.”
— By Britni Danielle
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