Nate Moore, the Secret Weapon Behind Marvel’s on-Screen Blackness

Nate Moore at the U.K. premiere of Captain America: Civil War at Vue Westfield in London on April 26, 2016
Ian Gavan/Getty Images
Nate Moore at the U.K. premiere of Captain America: Civil War at Vue Westfield in London on April 26, 2016
Ian Gavan/Getty Images

Nate Moore has achieved a “marvel” feat of his own: going from reading comics as a kid to landing as executive producer alongside Marvel mastermind Stan Lee himself for the iconic brand’s latest global smash, Captain America: Civil War.

While I was in there, I was able, with Nicole Perlman [first woman to write a Marvel film], to get Guardians of the Galaxy up to the point where we were going to make the movie, which was great, but we also needed to make Captain America 2 [The Winter Soldier], so [Marvel President] Kevin Feigesaid, “Hey, I know you helped to make Guardians, so will you help me with Captain America 2?and of course I said, “Yeah,” because I’m not crazy. And so that’s how I ended up on Captain America 2 [The Winter Soldier]. Markus McFeely crafted that story, introduced the Falcon and hired Joe and Anthony Russo, and that film did really well, so they kept the team together for Captain America 3 and I sort of was promoted from co-producer to executive producer.

The Root caught up with Moore in Atlanta and talked about his rise at Marvel and, of course, lots of Black Panther.


The Root: When you first joined Marvel, what did you do?

Nate Moore: I worked on the Marvel Writers Program. So the idea with the writers program was to develop all of the characters that weren’t currently on the slate. At the time, they were in preproduction on Captain America 1 [The First Avenger] and Thor, but characters like Black Panther, Dr. Strange, Iron Fist and Guardians of the Galaxy were in the Writers Program, so I was trying to figure out ways to get those scripts into shape so that they could be made into movies.

TR: Since you’ve been there, Marvel’s universe has gotten really diverse. We’ve seen Don Cheadle in Iron Man, Anthony Mackie in Captain America, Zoe Saldana in Guardians of the Galaxy and now Chadwick Boseman starring in Black Panther. Is this a coincidence?

NM: I think it is a reflection of the characters [already in the comic books]. Like, for me, Captain America and the Falcon were always together, so when I started Captain America: Winter Soldier, the first thing I talked to Markus McFeely about was how do we bring the Falcon into the universe, because that’s a character that resonates with me. For Civil War, when we were looking for the character who could stand next to Captain America and Iron Man and feel like an equal, the first character I thought of was Black Panther because, again, for me that was the character as a kid that I responded to. So yeah, I think it’s sort of a reflection of what I liked as a kid, and I liked black superheroes because they were a reflection of my experience.

Illustration for article titled Nate Moore, the Secret Weapon Behind Marvel’s on-Screen Blackness

TR: Let’s talk Black Panther.

NM: I think [Civil War] does a great job introducing the character and making him somebody you’re immediately interested in and want to know more about. The Black Panther standalone movie now gets to explore the world of Wakanda, the most technologically advanced nation in the heart of Africa, which is amazing. It’s really compelling, and Black Panther has a great cast of characters around him that’s really interesting.


So it gets to be a movie that is going to be a predominantly black cast, whether it’s African American or African, on sort of the scale that you don’t get to see all the time. For us, it’s Mission Impossible; it is a globe-trotting, action-adventure movie, but with really interesting casting. Ryan Coogler, who is directing it, is super talented and I think sees this film as an opportunity not only to really entertain but also to tackle some really interesting issues.

TR: Why is Ryan Coogler the right director?

NM: I think he’s going to tell a really great story. Just his approach to Wakanda, I think, is really compelling. It is both faithful to what happens in the comic, but also contemporary in a way that comics sometimes aren’t. His ideas for casting are really cool. His ideas for action are really cool. We are officially in preproduction [in May], so it’s happening and it’s really exciting, and he’s co-writing it with a writer named Joe Robert Cole.


TR: Isn’t he black, and didn’t he write and co-produce on The People v. O.J. Simpson?

NM: Yeah. I think he ended up writing three episodes for that show, and he came out of our Marvel Writers Program. He’s super talented as well. It’s interesting because he spent a lot of time in the Bay [Area], so they have some interesting shared history, and I think together they are coming up with some really cool ideas.


TR: So what makes Chadwick Boseman, whom we know as Jackie Robinson from 42 and James Brown in Get on Up, Black Panther?

NM: There’s such a gravitas to his performance. Even on set, I think the other actors were sort of surprised because Marvel films, when we’re filming, are actually really fun and everyone’s kind of playful. Chadwick is very serious and sort of has this bearing that forces you to pay attention and also kind of forces you to not joke around so much because he’s so good, even in stillness. Like even when he’s not saying anything, everybody just sort of can’t help but look at him. So, in the film, I think you really feel that. You feel that everyone else goes, “Oh, I have to take that guy seriously.” And he moves on the screen in a way that’s really amazing.


When we cast him, the truth is we had only really seen 42. I always remember the scene in the tunnel where he loses it and he can only do it in private, and we were like, that kind of strength is something we want this character to have. And he’s also a chameleon because, when you look at all those movies, he’s so different. Jackie Robinson is so different from his James Brown, and I think will be much different, I’m sure, than his Thurgood Marshall.

TR: How have audiences responded to Black Panther so far?

NM: Now that the film is out, the response to Panther is so strong because we took the time to do it right. … Now we can just tell a really good story for Black Panther, and they’re going to come to that, too.


Captain America: Civil War is in theaters now. Black Panther is slated for a 2018 release.

Ronda Racha Penrice is a freelance writer living in Atlanta. She is the author of African American History for Dummies.

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