Atandwa Kani features in the Marvel superhero franchise movie Black Panther playing the younger version of his father and famous South African actor John Kani, in the role of young King T’Chaka.
Atandwa was born in Port Elizabeth and, inspired by his father, graduated from Wits University in 2008 with an Honours degree in theatrical performance. Since then he’s played numerous local and international roles on stage, TV and film to much acclaim.
The Afropolitan caught up with Atandwa in New York, where he lives with his wife Fikile. He says that they're eager to have "a few kids, and Fiks WANTS a pug or 4"...
1. If not an actor, what would you be?
I have NO clue, but I know I’d be brilliant at it.
With many a successful role to his name, this proudly South African actor is most at home in the company of Hollywood royalty.
2. You’ve worked extensively on stage, in TV and movies in SA, the UK and USA. Which form of acting is the most challenging?
Theatre, because after gruelling rehearsals, you’re on every night, live, with no “Cut! Take 2!”
3. Do you memorise lines easily and how do you go about getting into character?
I do memorise lines fairly easily, it runs in the family, clearly. I dedicate a portion of my day to being in the world of the character, physically and mentally.
4. Is there a particular character you dream of playing one day?
I would love to write a film about Dr. John Kani’s life and play him in it... perhaps have him direct it.
5. What were the highlights of being in Black Panther?
I LOVED putting on that Black Panther suit, being The King of Wakanda and winning a fight against Sterling K. Brown. Also, being able to spend time with my dad on set and seeing him getting the adoration and respect he deserves. Keeping in touch quite regularly with all the cast members is pretty cool too!
6. Not to take anything away from Chadwick Boseman's performance as T'Challa/Black Panther, if you were cast would you have done anything differently?
Of course! I am an African. I would have spoken more Xhosa.
7. Shot from an outsider’s impression of Africa, albeit it with a large element of fantasy, did anything about the film not sit well with you?
I was the cultural consultant in the film, so anything that did feel off, Ryan Coogler was gracious enough to listen to me and amend.
8. What’s the most embarrassing thing to happen to you in a stage production?
In the stage play, The Tempest, at The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) [in the UK], I noted one night we had teleprompters for the deaf and hard of hearing. As soon as I saw the words being displayed as I said them, I thought “oh that's so cool”, then forgot the rest of my monologue as Ariel.
9. What’s the most challenging thing about following in your father’s footsteps?
Trying to figure out how he has done – and continues to do – all he has done! He is an unstoppable force!
10. Any advice for aspiring actors?
Train, study, expand your knowledge. This is a humanitarian science, the study of human behaviour, so go study it!
11. What’s the best part about living in the USA and what do you miss most about SA?
The best part: being with my wife. I miss my friends and family the most.