Training the Black Panther – Interview with Marrese Crump

In 2016, the ever-expanding roster of superheroes who made the leap to the big screen got a little bigger with the live-action debut of King T’Challa, better known to his many fans as “Black Panther”, in “Captain America: Civil War“. Almost universally recognized as the film’s breakout character, Black Panther is set to return in his own solo film, which you’ll be able to see on February 16th with Chadwick Boseman reprising the role.

Of course, anyone who’s read his adventures in the pages of Marvel Comics or who saw him steal the show in “Civil War” will readily agree, the King of Wakanda is a superb athlete and highly formidable martial artist. Doing T’Challa’s physical skills justice would require Mr. Boseman to ready himself under the supervision of an immensely qualified professional that would prove to be none other than Marrese Crump.

The only Western apprentice of “Ong Bak” star Tony Jaa’s mentor, the late Panna Rittikrai, Marrese would famously impress action aficionados around the world in his villainous turn opposite Tony in 2013’s “Tom Yum Goong 2” (aka “The Protector 2”). He would later make an equally scene-stealing splash opposite Bollywood megastar Salman Khan in 2016’s wrestling/MMA epic, “Sultan“.

In other words, Marrese is as innovative, dynamic and multi-dimensionally talented a trainer that you could possibly ask for in bringing the abilities of Black Panther to life.

Today, Marrese sits down for an exclusive with KFK to share a peak behind-the-scenes at the making of “Black Panther”, and his role in preparing Chadwick Boseman for the physical rigors that inevitably comes with the throne of the King of Wakanda!

Hi Marrese, hope things are going well for you. Welcome back to Kung Fu Kingdom and thanks so much for taking some time out to share with us!

Hi Brad, thank you and I’m doing great!

Superb. Well, let’s kick off with how you first became involved in “Black Panther” in the role of training Chadwick Boseman for the film?

The first time we talked about it was over the phone. He told me he was getting ready for “Black Panther”, and asked me if I would train him in martial arts for the movie. Of course, I said yes to such a great opportunity to be part of such history-making film. Also, a lot of people don’t know this, but years ago, way before they started casting for the film, someone asked me if I would be trying out for a role in the project -at the time I actually said “Whoever plays the role of T’Challa, I would like to train him and create the Black Panther style” and it came true. I believe things like that can manifest and I’m very glad it did. Chadwick and I were on the same vibe from the start so me and him working together flowed very naturally.

Looks like the stars really aligned for you and “Black Panther”! So, what can you share about the process of getting Mr. Boseman in shape for “Black Panther”? What sorts of exercises and fighting techniques did you take him through? Did he have any previous martial arts or gymnastic experience?

Chadwick is an athlete. He stays active all the time, that made training him easier. He has a good understanding of martial arts principles and philosophy. Lucky for me, he has learned a lot from his teacher, Grandmaster Bill McCloud in Brooklyn, who I have a ton of respect for. So, from one warrior to another, it’s all respect.

Yes, he clearly displayed how committed he was to “Black Panther” from his first appearance in “Civil War”. So, what can you share about the process of crafting Black Panther’s distinctive fighting style and physical abilities for the film? What was your basis for the character’s movements and fighting skills?

T’Challa’s fighting style has its own vibe and rhythm. It has to start with the mindset first. Chadwick was already tapping into all that, so we aligned our thoughts and built the structure from that foundation. As far as training, we covered many areas such as empty hand, weapons, technology, strategies and mind-science. To protect the nation, he needed to have knowledge of many different methods of combat, even ones beyond the borders of Wakanda as well. We also implemented some “subtle-almost hidden” strategies that some people might be able to notice if they pay close attention.

It’s exciting to hear T’Challa has been so carefully and empathetically thought out; a well-versed warrior! So, what were a couple of memorable highlight experiences of training Mr. Boseman for the film?

The entire process was a memorable journey. From the time, me and Chadwick began our “one-on-one” training sessions. We both felt the energy and understood the importance of the “Black Panther” film. We dedicated many hours to martial arts practice and discussed at length the mentality and spirit of T’Challa as a leader and Warrior-King. It was a great experience, being there every day working on set with him throughout the whole process. I’m truly honored.

No doubt, being a part of “Black Panther” is a golden opportunity! What can audiences expect from the action and stunts in it?

It’s gonna be dope! Trust me, you don’t wanna miss this one.

No doubt! So, with Black Panther having made his debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War”, did his fighting style and physical skills portrayed there serve as the reference point for Mr. Boseman’s training for the solo “Black Panther” movie?

It’s different because there is so much more depth to see T’Challa as the leader and protector of a nation.

Did the training Mr. Boseman underwent with you require any sort of modification to accommodate the suit his character wears in the film?

As a martial artist, training is always focused on adapting to different situations and environments. Essentially, armor is a part of warrior training. We had to take that into account right from the start. We knew that sometimes he would have to fight wearing the Panther suit in full-combat mode. He also had to be prepared to carry himself as King with no armor and still be effective while making real-world decisions.

T’Challa is clearly well-read on embodying the adaptive nature of water! On that note, you’ve worked with some of the biggest Asian action stars, (including Tony Jaa and Bollywood megastar Salman Khan) what are a couple of your memorable moments working with them and which actors would you most like to work with next?

Working with Tony Jaa in “Tom Yum Goong 2” will always be special because it was a chance for me, Tony, and Master Panna Rittikrai to all work together. Also, my experience in Bollywood acting face to face with the legendary Salman Khan was something I always wanted to accomplish and that dream came true in the movie “Sultan”. There are too many actors that I would love to share the screen with for me to list them all here, but definitely at the top of my list would be Denzel Washington, The Rock and for sure Chadwick. Who knows you might see me in “Black Panther 2”.

Indeed, who would say no to those prospects! Moving on…can you tell us which 5 kung fu or martial arts movies does Marrese Crump really resonate with these days?

Well recently, I have been diving deep into some old Japanese cinema. I love the “Shinobi no Mono” films. They have a unique dramatic feeling. I’ve been watching them over and over again. The legendary shadow-warriors of Japan are fascinating!

And which would you say are 3 martial arts movie fight scenes that you really enjoy watching and re-watching right now?

Being a disciple of Master Panna. I’m still in love with his work. I love watching “Ong Bak“, “The Protector“, “Chocolate” and “Born to Fight“. All the fight scenes in his movies are just amazing, they’re timeless!

Agreed! So, what other projects do you have coming up?

I don’t want say too much right now. We have a few things in the works, but I will say this, I’m really excited about working with author and 52 Blocks pioneer Diallo Frazier. We building!

Sounds great, we can’t wait to see that unfold! Looking ahead now, you’re quite a philosophical guy, what vibe, phrase or mantra accurately reflects your mindset right now?

From my training in the art of Ninjutsu, I would say “To-Shin!” which reminds me to endure, persevere and keep going.

Incisive warrior words of wisdom. To wrap, what special message would you like to share with Kung Fu Kingdom readers and your fans around the world about the “Black Panther” movie?

Definitely Go out and show your support for “Black Panther”. This is a historic moment, be part of it.

Right you are! Thank you Marrese for your kind participation in this interview. We look forward to seeing the success of “Black Panther” and your other innovative, exciting upcoming action projects in the soon future!

My pleasure, Brad. Happy to speak to Kung Fu Kingdom again!

Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” will be leaping through your theater screens on February 16th. King T’Challa will also be seen this summer in the upcoming “Avengers: Infinity War”.

What are your thoughts on “Black Panther”, excited for this one, which superhero fighting style do you admire the most? Let us know in the comments below, join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Meantime, check out our other fu-centric interviews. (Like Marrese’s t-shirt? Get yours send us a pic in your best kung-fu pose, we’ll post it on Facebook!)

Brad Curran

From the earliest days of childhood, Brad Curran was utterly fascinated by martial arts, his passion only growing stronger after spending time living in the melting pot of Asian cultures that is Hawaii. His early exposure developed into a lifelong passion and fascination with all forms of martial arts and tremendous passion for action and martial arts films. He would go on to take a number of different martial arts forms, including Shaolin Ch'uan fa, Taekwondo, Shotokan Karate and remains a devoted student, avid and eager to continue his martial arts studies. Brad is also an aspiring writer and deeply desires to share his love for martial arts and martial arts movies with the world!

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