The 32-year-old actor played Jabari Tribe leader M’Baku in the 2018 acclaimed Marvel blockbuster. He claims that with his big screen breakout role, came a huge amount of objectification surrounding his body, making him a “sexual object.”
Duke says it highlights double standards in society, because if he were a female, it “wouldn’t be acceptable.”
In the latest issue of ES Magazine, he said, “I didn’t expect to be, um, kind of sexualized and fetishized like that. I didn’t want to be consumed only as a sexual object. Although it felt good, if it was done to a woman, it wouldn’t be acceptable.
“It was really important to me to steer the conversation towards asking why people are reacting that way. How often do they see characters like this on film? How often do they see black men represented with so much dimension and class, with masculinity that feels authentic, yet malleable? I don’t think that’s represented very often, and it’s really important to point that out.”
The Us star went on to say that he doesn’t adhere to traditional gender stereotypes and explained that the absence of his father growing up made him believe in “strong femininity.”
He said, “I didn’t learn one way to be a man, and the thing that stayed constant was strong femininity. I could appreciate strength as its own thing, not attached to gender. Being raised that way also taught me that it’s OK to talk, to cry.”
He added that he doesn’t find it rude when fans bark at him in the style of his Black Panther character — who is at first in opposition to the Black Panther, King of Wakanda T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman).
He said, “Not at all, I understand what it means to fans of the film, to be able to identify with characters in a way they never would have been able to with, say, a ‘Harry Potter’ film. It’s cool if they want to bark at me.”
The full interview with the actor appears in this week’s issue of ES Magazine which is available from Thursday, March 21, 2019.