Inspiration. Ambition.
Passion. Process. Technique.

By: Greg Iwinski


Host Greg Iwinski talks to Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole about their collaboration process for BLACK PANTHER and BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER, rewriting a screenplay while – and as part of – grieving, space-saving ways to write a half-dozen languages into your script, and more.

Ryan Coogler is a writer-director whose credits include the 2013 biopic FRUITVALE STATION and the CREED franchise.

Joe Robert Cole is a writer-director who has written for the series THE PEOPLE VS. O.J. SIMPSON: AMERICAN CRIME STORY, and wrote and directed the feature film ALL DAY AND A NIGHT.

Ryan and Joe cowrote the screenplay for BLACK PANTHER as part of Phase Three of the MCU. The film was nominated for a Writers Guild Award for Adapted Screenplay and became the first superhero film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.

BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER – their latest project together and the sequel to the 2018 film – follows Queen Ramonda, Shuri, M’Baku, Okoye and the Dora Milaje during their fight to protect Wakanda from intervening world powers in the wake of King T’Challa’s death. As the Wakandans strive to embrace their next chapter, the heroes must band together with Nakia and Everett Ross to forge a new path for their beloved kingdom.

The film was released by Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios in November 2022. It’s currently playing in theaters and will be available to stream on Disney+ starting February 1, 2023.

Greg Iwinski is an Emmy-winning comedy writer and no-award-winning performer whose writing includes LAST WEEK TONIGHT and THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT. He recently finished writing the first season of GAME THEORY WITH BOMANI JONES on HBO, and can be found on Twitter @garyjackson (external – opens in a new window)

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OnWriting is an official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, East. The series was created and produced by Jason Gordon. Associate Producer & Designer is Molly Beer. Mix, tech production, and original music by Stock Boy Creative.

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Thanks for listening. Write on.


Speaker 1: Hello. You’re listening to OnWriting, a podcast from the Writer’s Guild of America East. In each episode, you’ll hear from the writers of your favorite films and television series. They’ll take you behind the scenes, go deep into the writing and production process, and explain how they got their project from the page to the screen.

Greg Iwinski: Hi, I’m Greg Iwinski, a comedy writer, Writers Guild East member and host of this episode of OnWriting. In this episode, I’m thrilled to speak with Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, co-writers of Black Panther and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which is now in theaters. Ryan is also the writer/director of the Creed franchise and Fruitvale Station. Joe has written for the series American Crime Story, and wrote and directed the feature film All Day and a Night. First, a quick heads up, this episode does contain spoilers for Wakanda Forever, but you should have already seen it. Ryan and Joe, thank you guys so much for being here.

Joe Robert Cole: Thank you for having us.

Ryan Coogler: Thanks for having me.

Joe Robert Cole: Yeah.

Greg Iwinski: Ryan, you are in London. You just did the David Lean Lecture for BAFTA, is that right?

Ryan Coogler: Yeah, last night, yep.

Greg Iwinski: Okay. My wife is a flight attendant, so I’ve done the cheap thing of standby flights to London and back, and just even from that, boy, that jet lag is rough.

Ryan Coogler: Yeah, it just kicked in on me today. Thankfully, it didn’t hit me yesterday when I gave the talk, but I woke up today, and I’m feeling it. Man, I feel like I’m on another planet.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah, it’s that thing where you’re like, “Wait, why…? It’s not day or night. What time should it be? My body doesn’t …” Oh, that’s rough. I thank you so much for doing this even with all that jet lag.

Ryan Coogler: That’s all good, bro. I’m happy to, man, happy to.

Greg Iwinski: I’m super hyped to talk to you guys also as a writer, as a Black person, as a Black creative, as all this, this is awesome. Can you talk to me a little bit about your writer journey, in terms of: how did you guys meet? How did this whole thing get set up, where it’s like you two guys are going to make Black Panther a thing, not just a cameo in Civil War, not just whatever, you guys are going to be the guys? How did that come together?

Joe Robert Cole: You want to start, Ryan?

Ryan Coogler: Maybe you should start, because you came to the project before I did.

Joe Robert Cole: So, when Civil War came out, Nate Moore is the conduit between us, and he’s the executive on the movies, and was also on Civil War, and he’s a big Black Panther fan. He read the comics like Ryan. I had been in the Marvel writing program and met Nate there. That’s what introduced me to Black Panther. They reached out to me and wanted to see if I would be interested in pitching to write the movie. And so I went in and I pitched. And this is a little after Ava stepped away from the project.

So I won that job, and then when I pitched, Nate had a conversation with me and said he was talking to Ryan, and that Ryan wanted to co-write it if he came on board. And I was super excited. And there’s a little bit of backstory. Me and Nate, while I was in the writer program, we had become friendly, and we had went to see Fruitvale Station together. And we didn’t know Ryan then. And the movie really touched both of us, and we were huge fans of his. So Nate said that me and Ryan would get along super well, and he put us in a room. And I’ll let you take over from there, bro.

Ryan Coogler: Yeah. We met in that Avengers conference room, I think. And one of the first things Joe said to me was he told me that he went to Cal Berkeley. And I’m from the East Bay Area. I went to high school in Berkeley. My little brothers went to high school in Berkeley. And I grew up in Oakland and Richmond, Berkeley is kind of between those two cities. He shared with me that his time spent in the Bay Area was real formative for him. And when we connected over that. And we started talking about… I think we talked more life than about the characters or anything, just get getting a feel for who we were as people. And it was real clear to me that we were going to get along. It was clear that he could write. I think I had read the outline that he did for Panther One and it was great. Were you working on American Crime at the time or you were just coming off of it?

Joe Robert Cole: Yeah, I actually came up with my pitch while I was supervising my episodes on that, and so I wrapped it up. We talked about family.

Ryan Coogler: That was really… Without getting into it too deep, but that was really what it was man. We talked family and Joe being from Cleveland. And he told me a little bit about how he came up. I told him about how came up. And if you making a Black Panther movie, you know from the comic books that all of the drama, the best books are about him and his family, you know what I’m saying, like him and his relationship with his father, who died when he was young and with the Helen runs like Shriek comes in the mix and his uncle Cheyenne and all these. It’s kind of like a palace intrigue and family stuff, and we wanted to make it real. So we knew that that would be a element of it.

We started talking about our own families and our own journeys to becoming filmmakers. And I just really was fond of him. I was happy because it’s a lot of writers in Hollywood and everybody who’s good at their job isn’t necessarily going to be somebody who you can work with or get along with because those are two different things. And a lot of times people who are really good at their job in this business are assholes. It’s actually a positive correlation. You’re fine.

Greg Iwinski: And you got to be a good hang. You got to be somebody who I want to be around you. I’ve worked in late night a lot and you talk about if 2:00 in the morning, if I see you in the hallway, I should be happy.

Ryan Coogler: Exactly, bro. Exactly. And a lot of people are imagining writers who are tough to be around. And for this one was going, it was going to take a lot of time. We were behind. I think it was a tight schedule for us to hit that release date and we knew it was going to be some intense hours, some late nights, quick turnarounds. We even talked about that and one of the first things you said was like, “Y’all won’t sleep much.” So I’m good.

Joe Robert Cole: That’s true. I remember that.

Ryan Coogler: I was like, “Great.” Because some people are like, “Yeah man, I need 10 hours a day.” It’s like, “Oh, this ain’t going to work.”

Greg Iwinski: Oh, I was going to say, so how does the chemistry and the work together, how does that play out in the co-writing? There’s a lot of different ways people co-write. Are you guys writing on stuff at the same time? Are you in the room breaking everything down or is it like, “Here’s my draft, send me notes, you send me yours,” back and forth? What’s your process?

Ryan Coogler: Yeah, it’s all of those things man. It’s all of those things. So for Panther One, I had to get my head around it, so I asked for a little bit of time up top just to dive in. And Joe was like, “Man…” He was cool with that. I think I got halfway through a draft and then I was taking too long, so then just so Joe got in the mix. We might have finished up together. And then from there we’re back and forth. We’ll break it up, like you take these scenes, I’ll take these scenes.

Or sometimes I might have a scene but Joe will be like, “Hey I think I got an idea for that. Let me get down one.” It is that. And then it’s also a lot of us in the room together figuring it out. So it’s basically all of those things. And with Wakanda Forever, it was a lot of us literally writing at the same time with the new features from final draft. Because that was a pandemic movie man, so we was over Zooms, but we’ll be in the document at the same time with that co-writing feature. So it was great.

Greg Iwinski: It is funny that… Oh, go ahead. Sorry. Go ahead Jeff.

Joe Robert Cole: I was just saying that was fun. That was…

Ryan Coogler: It was like a video game.

Joe Robert Cole: It was a trip. It was a trip. You could see the cursors and you see… It was fun.

Greg Iwinski: So I wrote for Colbert and for Last Week Tonight and in those, there’s late night co-writing software because you have to write so fast. Yeah. So there’s a program that you use that because at a daily late night show you have the assignment comes out at 10:00, you have to turn it in at 12:30. So you have two and a half hours to write your script. You don’t have time to send each other drafts, you’re just in it together both writing. And so you’re like, “I’m going to write this one punchline. And that gives you another idea, so you write your punchline below mine.” And so when Final Draft got it, I was like finally this is what we’ve been doing forever is being, “Let’s all write.” And so then it’s crazy because then at the end of the day when you’re trying to punch a joke, 10 people are writing jokes at the same time.

You’re just watching the screen just fly. I love co-writing. I want to ask you guys, this movie is a Black movie and Wakanda is… There’s so much about this that is Black. I mean I walk out of both these movies and my friend turned to me, he’s like, “If this is how white people feel after they see every action movie, man I get it. I get how it is.” Because you feel like you’re flying and we’re winning, but also there aren’t a ton of them. And so I’ve been in spaces where I’m the second Black guy ever hired to do my job, this high profile job.

And I know there are on people on Twitter that are waiting because they’re like, “I’m watching these jokes and I know your handle. And if it’s not something that…” Black people are waiting. And with you guys this is the Black superhero. There are more, but it has all this weight on it. How do you process all the weight of having to represent, of knowing that people are waiting for the second one being like, “It needs to feel for us,” or, “We want to feel represented. And Ryan and Joe, we know you guys, so if it doesn’t make us feel represented, we’re going to come for you,”? How do you deal with that pressure as people?

Ryan Coogler: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a good question, man. I don’t know Joe, you want to drop in, bro?

Joe Robert Cole: I think, and I don’t want to speak for Ryan, but I think for me, I’m just trying to pour myself into what I’m doing and stay in the moment. Each of these two films have been really personal in a lot of ways to us. When he says that we talked about family, we talked about each other, we had lots of conversations about who we were as people and who we were as children, how we saw the world and how we see the world. We’re writing with someone who had become a friend, especially by the second movie. So you are focused on pouring your personal self into the work that you’re doing and not focused on the expectations in some regards of someone outside of you.

Look, we are Black. We have that, we walk outside, that is what we are. We have been Black our whole lives. We have that lived experience. We have those shared experiences. And so as we are working, we are working with someone who understands our point of view on the world and doesn’t mean we’re monolithic, but it does mean that we have those overlaps. And I think we feel like we have that with other people of color. And so we’re just focused on ourselves, I believe, and what we feel is right, what feels right, being true, truth to our feelings and exploring and trying to beat what we have always and make it better.

Ryan Coogler: Yeah, I agree with everything Joe said. He said it perfectly. It is a pressurized situation how I like to work. And it serves me, each time I’ve been working professionally, there has been a lot of weight depending on which angle I look at it from. I have to actually look back the other films that I worked on in preparation for the lecture that I gave last night. It’s not something I often do. Usually by the time the movie premiers, I’m done with it. I don’t ever again. I move on from it. And I think a lot of that is a part of the ritual because of the pressure that I always feel when I’m making these movies. With Fruitvale, it was somebody’s life that we were trying to portray in a vehicle that’s artistic but also supposed to be for entertainment.

It was so many things was we were trying to balance. I remember some days it felt insurmountable. And I was young bro, making that movie. And it was good practice for this, which is, it’s fictional characters, but fictional characters that mean a lot to of people, been around for a long time and the things that they represent are expansive. And so I think that we are aware of the responsibility and we try our best every day to make something now that felt truthful to us. The moment you trying to make something that feels truthful to somebody else, you’ll make something that sucks. When you stretching… And you can feel it when you watch people’s stuff, when they stretching to do something that’s far from them.

So that’s what we doing man. We stepping in to work every day. Working professionals, nothing was given to nothing me, nothing was given to Joe. I can guarantee you that. We worked to put ourselves in a position and to be hired to do this. Every day we thinking, we got friends, we got kids, we got people that’s coming behind us, we thinking, “Let’s do the absolute best we can do here, not only for this project but for the next person that’s coming up, so this can be a success story.” So people will see the next Joe in a writing room or a writing program and say, “Hey man, let me promote this with this person.” So we carried that with us to work out on everything. So from there it’s like, “All right, right, let’s buckle down, let’s work. Let’s make something that’s truthful. Let’s make something that’s entertaining, that pulls from real things.” And then after that, man, people who can do with it what they want, it’s theirs now. And that’s kind of how I attack it.

Greg Iwinski: There’s got to be a lot of… It’s a movie that is… There’s a lot of personal grief and personal things that you have to work through for something that your audience feels some little ownership of. And you guys now are so in the industry, you know that people have relationships, how they feel about a character or a celebrity, but when you know that person as a person, that’s a totally different universe. And so you guys are dealing with something as human beings and we’re watching it dealing with, “Oh, this idea.” I can remember when I found out that Chad passed, I fell down.

There’s very few moments of my life that I’ve fallen on the ground when I found something out. And I remember I told my wife, I said, “It feels like we don’t get to have Superman.” That that happened, it was huge. And so that you did such an incredible job processing something that was like… You don’t need to make this movie for me to feel better. I am just a random audience person. You guys are putting your own processing into it. But this movie does such an incredible job of both layers, I think, of that grief.

Ryan Coogler: Oh thank you, bro. Thank you man. I appreciate that, bro. He was a special, special, special guy. I think it’s so many things in life man that can feel unfair. You hear stories about children passing away and it’s like, “Yo the unfairness of this.” Or you hear the stories about anytime somebody goes before that time. I read this great book, bro, about Mike Nichols. Who obviously if you working in the industry, you know who he is, what he means. And he lived a pretty full life. And I got to the end of the book when he passed away and I cried. It’s something about there’s a sadness when anybody passes away.

But that guy, Chad, who he was, the uniqueness of him and what he meant and how he left, it was the sense of unfairness to it man, was something I couldn’t put words to, trying to find meaning in it. And there was a situation where the world was going through what the character would be going through. And it felt like it felt like it made sense to us to do something unique, to make a film that’s a major motion picture that that’s also a vehicle for trying to process things that are like un-processable because sometimes you face with that in life.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. I walked out of the theater when I saw it, somebody texted me and said, “How was it?” I said, “It’s a requiem.”

Ryan Coogler: Oh wow.

Greg Iwinski: To me it feels like that’s what the movie is. It’s a requiem. And it’s this beautiful piece of art that is to memorialize what somebody did. And I got to say too, I’ve got a four year-old son who’s Black, obviously, but is navigating that world and is figuring out what all that means and has all these toys. And so the tag of the movie to have this new… I cried, I’m going to try not to cry now, but I cried so much because I thought, “Because there is another T’Challa, I don’t have to go to my son with his action figures and say this guy is not around anymore.” And the power of what that did for me in that I don’t have to tell my son that his hero has been taken away by fate or whatever, man, dude, that stuff that’s it’s the story time stuff, but it means so much. And so it’s just… I’m sorry, I know it’s not about writing but it’s just thank you guys so much for that because it’s incredible.

Ryan Coogler: Oh for sure, bro.

Greg Iwinski: I do have some writing questions. You had a script finished and then all this happens. What is the process like of taking the script apart? Because you’ve already got actions, ideas or story arcs or things built, do you just come back and say, “We’ll start from scratch and the things we liked we’ll remember and pull in,”? How did you take it apart and put it back together into a new movie? Sorry, I’m talking from deep emotion to process this question real fast. Oh man, I just can’t keep crying.

Joe Robert Cole: Once the decision was made that Chad wasn’t going to be recast, right Ryan, then we started looking at the narrative that we would try to pursue with the story, which started with Leticia, started with Shuri. And then pouring what we were going through and what she would be going through, Chad meant so much to all of the characters, these characters in the movie that we love and obviously to us and how would each of them be dealing with his loss. And obviously she was the closest one to him. And so it was looking at what that narrative journey for her would be overcoming and dealing with her grief. And a lot of the set pieces, a lot of those… Because he was dealing with… In our original draft, Chad was dealing with grief in slightly a different way. And so he was dealing with a sense of loss also, lost time. And so we were able to posit her journey a little bit on here. So the bones of what and a lot of the meat of what we wanted to do was already there.

Ryan Coogler: It was complicated man. I remember because we were working over Zoom. I remember we had turned in the draft T’Challa draft. And bro talk about grief, bro. I had never been so excited to direct a movie. And I’ve been very fortunate in my career that since I got out of film school, whenever I sat down and write a screenplay, the next thing I did was I shot it. And I was excited for Chad to read it and we were getting into it, getting notes from the studio and trying to figure out a way to compress it because it was crazy long. And that was when he passed away. And it was a surprise to us. And I was gutted personally because Chad had become… We had four years like a personal relationship. And I was a guy who was always… I got two little brothers. I was raised to be a very active big brother.

Because I’m the eldest, it was a relationship that I poured myself into but I was perpetually finding myself looking for one for myself. And sometimes I look in the wrong places. And with Chad, that’s what he was, it wasn’t apparent to me that he was leading me the whole time that we were working together in a really incredible way personally. So I was grieving the loss of this relationship. I felt robbed. And then professionally, I was grieving the loss of this movie. I wanted to make this with him. I wanted to have his performance in Panther is very iconic, but I think the things that he’s doing in it are so good that they look easy. It’s not a showy performance. It’s not like a Broadway style performance.

And I was anxious to give him something like that and that’s what this was going to be, something more what he was able to do in [inaudible 00:22:31]. So I was grieving that. I was like, “Shit man, we not going to get to bring this to audiences.” And it was some cool set pieces in there. So that was what we did. We kind of looked at what we had because we were up against it with time. And it was like, “Well, what set pieces are nonstarters that we got to figure out a way to keep. And then what has to be completely adjusted for this to become a Shuri remodeling vehicle. And then that first script was about T’Challa and his son. He comes back from the blip and finds out that he has this five year-old kid that didn’t know anything about him. And then we jump ahead a few years and then him and his son had this relationship where his son spends… Nobody outside Wakanda really knows who his son is. And he’s like this Haitian kid who spends summers with his dad in Wakanda.

So the movie took place over a summer where he was with with his dad and everything goes to shit. So T’Challa’s literally trying to save the world with his kid next to all the time. And that was what the movie was. We had this thing called, it was the ritual of eight where when a prince is eight years old, they got to spend eight days in a bush with they father and they get to ask him any question that they want for them eight days. But they there with no technology, with no nothing, they just living off the land and learning. And shit jumps off with name more on day one. They go all go out and spend time in the bush. And so he’s pissed because he only get so much time to spend with his kid. At night he’s got to work.

That was what the movie was about. And that relationship with, had some complexities to it because he wasn’t there for the first five years. And so it was like, “Well man, how do we figure we adjust this?” And that was what the work became. But it was also, we were adjusting to keep set pieces but we were also starting from scratch and making it a movie about a mom and a daughter. It was honestly those two things simultaneously. If that makes sense.

Greg Iwinski: No, that sounds… And that structure for that first movie, I can see how that’s such a cool idea you land on. And it is interesting that this one is still a parent and a child, and what is that relationship and also the idea, “Well I want tradition, I want innovation, I want that…” All of those fights back and forth.

Ryan Coogler: Totally. It was kind of transposed. And it became more complicated. It became a more sophisticated movie when it went from being… Because there’s such a clear delineation when you got a father to T’Challa a guy who’s about 40, who’s the wisest, smartest person walking around, who’s died three times and come back, some shit like that. And his kid is, “Yeah, Dad, you don’t know anything.” It’s a dynamic that can be cutsie. Even though it’s a real thing.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. It’s like Bron and Bronny Jr.

Ryan Coogler: Exactly. Yeah, it’s still how it would be. You got to imagine… Shit, we made that movie too with Space Jam. But yeah, like Bron’s telling Bronny how to shoot a layup and Bronny’s rolling his eyes. The movie had a lot of that to it, which is real. When we made it a 60 year-old queen and her 20-something genius daughter who is a boss in her own right and obviously knows a lot of shit, seen a lot of shit. And now she’s still trying to teach her. And then she’s like, “Mom, nah, you don’t got to figure it out.” It was like, “Oh man, now we really working with something here.” Because now half the audience is going to be with this person, half the audience is going to be with that person.

Joe Robert Cole: And the crux of what they were struggling over is was so heavy, in terms of his loss.

Greg Iwinski: Now Joe, in another interview you talked about with action stuff, because I love action movies, that in action movies you want to imbue the action scenes with character moments and character emotion. Could you talk to me, just quickly about: what does that look like in the writing process when you’re writing an action scene or you need to have these people fight these, what is it that puts that character into those scenes?

Joe Robert Cole: With Panther Two, we know all these characters and we love them. From 30,000 feet is you have to care about the people going through whatever the trials are, whatever the action sequence is, the more you care about them, the more stakes they have. And then, within those moments you’re kind of building so that those fights feel earned. If you take Black Panther Two, the time that Shuri spends with Namor down in Talakon, when they’re sitting in there talking, you see the closeness that they could possibly have. When Ramonda dies and you build Shuri’s sense of vengeance up. When they’re fighting, it all feels earned, and so the stakes feel very high.

But when I was talking, so that with this film, you’re doing the work before you get to the actual big fight and you’re emotionally invested in both of those characters. You can understand Namor’s point of view as well. Is this someone who’s lost his mother? He lost, in a lot of regards, a child. His obligation is to protect his people and he lost one. And so when they’re fighting you get the emotion of that. But what I was talking about, I think the quote that you’re referencing is, a lot of fights can be a lot of action can just be a series of stunts and the cooler the stunt, the cooler, and you’re trying to one up every stunt, you want the spectacle. The moments that stand out, I would ask you to think about a fight and say, “What do you remember from it?” You always remember the human moment within the fight. You remember something that happens that is not just a punch, not a kick, but it’s the humanity within it, or something that feels very unique and special but attached to the person.

And so you are always looking for that when you’re writing. But obviously Ryan can speak to this, as a filmmaker that gives you that opportunity to explore that as well. But that’s what I was talking about. The things you remember aren’t how many punches somebody. With Avengers, you remember Hulk slam because it’s funny. You remember him slamming, but you don’t remember all the different punches in the fight, but you remember that moment because that’s a uniquely fun… It’s like a Loony Tunes moment. It’s a great iconic thing. So that’s what I meant.

Greg Iwinski: Ryan, I had a question. I feel like, you talk about, there’s so much in here and there’s a lot of deleted scenes out there for the film. When you’re writing and then that you’re directing and you’re in the edit and you’re not just handing the script, you’re going to be in those final decisions, how do you decide at the end at what to cut down? Because I feel like both Panther movies are so full, there’s so much in there. Claw and Panther could have been a movie. There’s so much in there. What is it like? What is that process like? And is there a part of your writer brain when you’re writing, thinking about you later directing, later in the edit?

Ryan Coogler: Yeah, it is never separate for me. I try to work in a way that’s holistic and I try to be thinking about the finished product, which means I got to be in all mentally in all phases at the same time. But that was just how I was taught to make films. And so I’m always thinking about it, man. I’m always thinking about it. And I guess what gets in the way, sometimes it’s production where that’s the most practical. Because if I write a scene that’s too long or if me and Joe turn something in and we like, “Yeah, maybe we could lose this part, this section right here, but we like these words or whatever,” production is actually the place where it could hurt us the most. We know we had a burn on this movie that was several hundred thousand dollars a day.

So when you spending five, six hours shooting something that you probably not going to use, that’s where you get burned. So I’m trying to make sure we being judicious about where we actually put up in front of cameras so it doesn’t keep us from shooting something else that we need because it will. It’s guaranteed. You want to mitigate that, although that’s part of the process. For me, if it wasn’t for that factor, I would shoot a 400 page script. Just because you never know what’s going to play. And with these films, they got to be able to work for so many different types of people for it to be financially successful. Which is not what we doing it for, but it is important. Because if we were to make this movie and it were to bomb, all of the other movies just in the pipeline of the global film system and where Black Panther’s success had an inkling to do with whether or not they get financed, we would affect that.

So we want to still have a story that’s talked about the movie was like, “Yo, it did good business.” And for that reason, this movie got to work for families who want to take their kids, it’s got to work for elderly people, it’s got to work for cinephiles and critics, it’s got to work for a lot. And to hit that sweet spot that’s going to work for everybody, that’s when the testing process comes in, when you got to show it to people and see what they think. And you never know what’s going to hit and what doesn’t there, so it’s good to have options. And it’s painful bro. We got scenes man that’s on the cutting room floor of both movies where it just hurt bro. It just fucking hurts man. Both of them was involved with Okoye crazy enough. A lot of her scenes ended up going between two films. But she had a great scene with Daniel Kaluuya in the first one that we had to put on the deleted scenes. That one hurt, man.

Greg Iwinski: I think that’s a thing all writers experience where you’re like, “This is good, I believe in it, I don’t have time for it.” And now it’s this horrible moment of… And that’s thing where you’re like, “This joke, this is the best joke I ever wrote, but I got to cut it.”

Ryan Coogler: It is a tough feeling man. I can’t imagine bro with jokes bro because them things is worth their weight in gold.

Greg Iwinski: And you’re there and you’re just like, “Oh, ah…” And then they’re like, “Yeah, we don’t have time. Sorry.” Oh, it’s a killer, but it’s part of the thing.

Ryan Coogler: Last Week’s Tonight, bro, you wrote on Last Week Tonight?

Greg Iwinski: Dude. Yeah, on Last Week Tonight there it’s 30 minutes or whatever, so after the top, it’s a 22 minute script. The first version of it is like 35 minutes. And then you’re sitting there and everyone’s sitting in a room being like, “Well, what should we take out?” It’s like, “Should we take out this important quote from a scientist about climate change or should we take out these three jokes about porta-potties?” And you’re just like… But those cuts are brutal because the network’s, “You guys can’t do an hour long show. You’re a 30 minute show.” You’re like, “But could we? Could we, because we have jokes?” It’s always that fight. So it’s like, yeah, you always have stuff you, you just love. Every episode that’s up that I wrote on, I can tell you six more jokes that I’m like, “They were so good.”

Ryan Coogler: Oh man.

Greg Iwinski: And you run out of time.

Ryan Coogler: I love it bro. I never met anybody who worked on that show, man. That’s great.

Greg Iwinski: Oh yeah, it’s very fun. I did a Tucker Carlson episode that I’m very proud of. Got to do 30 minutes about my favorite guy in a bow tie. It was a great time. And it’s a big team thing. It’s not like it was just me, but that was one that was one of my babies that I loved. This movie has so much. It’s even bigger in a lot of ways than the first one. But one of the big things is Talakan. I grew up in Arizona, I was like, “dude, this representation is dope.” And my friends back there, a lot of, “Finally a movie about Black people versus Mexicans, what we were all dying for.”

But in this, one, incredible representation. My dad had the first Namor comic when he was a kid. He loved Namor. My dad was crazy about him. And so all the things, his attitude, his imperialism. Just that pride, like you said, walks in a room in his underwear and is like, “I’m the high status person in this room.” All that’s there. And then this incredible cultural layer on top of it. But then you put it underwater. And so what in the world is it like to write and then direct? I assume you’re not in a scuba suit underwater next to the camera. What is it like to write that and then what’s it like to direct underwater?

Ryan Coogler: Not in the scuba suit though. Because it was basically swim trunks. Imagine a real deep swimming pool, 20 feet deep. And what was the diameter on that thing? It was a big circle. Imagine like a giant barrel, but that goes up 20 feet high. Probably had a radius of… Probably had a 40 foot diameter. But yeah, it was great man. And writing it was definitely easier than shooting it. Because obviously when we writing bro, we can write anything.

Greg Iwinski: So are you thinking of that when you’re writing? Because also I think in water you can get lost in where are the characters, where’s the space. How are you putting that together?

Ryan Coogler: Joe, we was working with Previz. Everything was pretty holistic. And then when we got into it, we would talk about what to be what when we got into physical production. It was like, “Hey man, it’d be great if this conversation was not underwater.” Because we built the hut, right Joe, where Nate would be like, “Hey man, can they discuss Wakandan and Talokanil politics not underwater?”

Joe Robert Cole: Can they do it in the hut. How’s she going to be talking when she’s in the suit? Yeah, I remember those.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. Can they have a little bubble where they can-

Ryan Coogler: We built the memorabilia cave that he lives in. That he basically his hangout, his bachelor pad where he go for breathing water for them to talk in and that kind of stuff. So it would be that, if that makes sense.

Greg Iwinski: I only have a couple more questions. I know we’re short on time. So are there four or five, six languages? How many languages are in this movie?

Ryan Coogler: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So if you count the music. I think it’s like seven. Because we got music in a few different languages. I’m going to butcher the language out of Mali, but it’s Bambara, I want to say it is. So obviously there’s English, then there’s Xhosa. And then the famous Wakandan song by Baaba Maal. I think he’s singing either Fulani or Woloff, but I think it’s Fulani. And then (Singing). And then when they’re in the Mali Outreach Center, they’re speaking French and Bambara. And then you have Talokanil, the language, which is Yucatec Mayan. And then you have Spanish, I think it’s… Oh, and then you got Haitian Creole, which it’s related to French. So we at seven or eight I would say.

Greg Iwinski: So when that’s in the script, I assume you’re writing in English and then in the parentheses it’s like in Spanish or whatever.

Ryan Coogler: Yeah, George, he taught me a space shaving way to do the subtitles. Yeah. One day, I think it was on the first Panther, he was like, “Hey bro, we could say five pages if we just put the subtitles parenthesis somewhere else, bro.” I’m like, “What is this wizardry?”

Greg Iwinski: That’s awesome. That’s a real friend who gives you a final draft trick. Was there any discussion with the studio just in, people are going to be reading subtitles in language, language, language, anything like that?

Ryan Coogler: Yeah, yeah. We would talk about it a little bit. Man, God bless him man. They gave us a lot of grace. We put the subtitles in different colors to help. All of the European languages you put in white and Xhosa we put in yellow like a gold. And then for Yucatec Maya, we had that in that Talokanil blue we called it, just to give it a little bit. One of my favorite films is A Prophet and it’s a French film that’s very much about language as well. And I’ve probably seen it 40, 50 times.

But it took me my 10th time watching it to realize that they were doing something with the subtitles to tell us when the characters were speaking what language. Because in that movie it’s French Corsican and Arabic, those are the key languages spoken. And it’s storytelling between who speaks what and how. So it is something that I’ve always found interesting from that. And with this film, with these people who developed cultures that was in isolation, I thought it would make sense if we let the languages work as they should.

Greg Iwinski: It’s incredible to watch. If you haven’t seen Pachinko, there’s Korean and Japanese in that and you see the subtitles in different colors so that you are immediately catching up with that in that same way. And I think it’s just great on the ear just that it makes it such a more global movie that it’s the real representation of language. Last question. Next last question. So you talked about not fitting everything into a movie, now there’s a limited series, the Iron Heart limited series is coming out. My son is very excited. I’m excited too, but the Riri Williams coming out. And so it’s a different character. It’s an American character that’s part of this. What is it like working in a limited series space where it’s not like, “Okay, this movie’s got to come out on this date, it’s got to do global this,” it’s a different kind of product, a different kind of piece of art?

Ryan Coogler: Yeah, it’s getting produced… My production company Proximity is producing it alongside Marvel and they’ve made a bunch of these. It’s our first time making one. I’m in a much more distant creative relationship on that show. We got a incredible head writer, Shanakah Hodge, our directors Sam Bailey and Angela Barnes, they are leading that along with our Marvel executive, Zoe [inaudible 00:42:44]. And Zoe was Nate’s assistant on Black Panther and now she’s doing our thing. She did Falcon Winter Soldier. And now she’s doing Ironheart. And [inaudible 00:42:56] from Proximity, he was on the ground and Zinzi, my wife Zinzi and our partner, she was very heavily involved in it as well. Her family’s from Chicago. But it’s really the creative leads on that show are three Black women. It’s very, very interesting. It’s very different from Wakanda Forever.

It takes place almost entirely in the states. A lot of it is in… A lot of it is in Chicago. They went and shot in Chicago on the South Side for a good chunk of time, Charlotte and Atlanta as well. But I don’t know if there’s ever been a series like this in terms of the point of view and perspective being the creative voices behind it. But it’s not show that I could make. When I look at it, you feel like you’re getting a window into another way of seeing the world. And for that I’m really, really excited. And Dominique’s brilliant in it, but I think Ramos is really good in it as well. Yeah.

Greg Iwinski: That’s awesome. It’s always great to see a new perspective is an awesome thing.

Ryan Coogler: Oh yeah.

Greg Iwinski: And I’m excited just… Yeah, the character is great. The world building is great. And also the stuff two have both made this world, this place, this culture is now pushing forward into these new Marvel phases and places. There’s a legacy now coming out of how you guys have impacted this universe that will just keep going forward.

Ryan Coogler: Yeah. And for us, man, for me and Joe, that character, she I the counterpart to Killmonger? It’s not much made of it, but they literally went to the same school, from a similar place and that was what she represented for us. There was no show for her before the movie. Although I’ve heard people say, “Yeah, he’s making a commercial for they shows or whatever.” It’s funny with what people say. But yeah, for us she was a continuation in our argument that he was advocating for of who Wakanda should be looking out for, who they should be protecting. And she represents somebody who had the potential that he had who was dealing with some of the same things he was dealing with without the claim to Wakanda throwing or nothing like that. She’s just a Black girl living life, trying to figure it out. And the show is a lot of that, which I love.

Greg Iwinski: I’m so, so excited for it. My last question is just something I ask everybody: is there anything that you wish I’d asked you that I didn’t ask you? I want to give you that chance. Is any question you wish I’d asked?

Ryan Coogler: I can’t think of anything, bro. My astrological sign. Nah, nah. Yeah, I can’t think of anything. Oh no, you ask great questions, bro from great point of view. And it’s always great that when you get to talk craft. I think as Black creatives oftentimes it goes to the political and the emotional and the social significance. Obviously it’s great to talk about that stuff, but it’s also great to talk craft on a podcast like this.

Greg Iwinski: Absolutely. It’s the nice thing of when there’s more than one of us around, you don’t have the pressure of being the person so you could talk… I know you guys are out of time, but as filmmakers, that Black Panther One is what I put on to show off what Dolby Cinema looks like. When people are like, “Oh, you have this TV?” And I’m like, “Let me show you what this TV can do.” And I put on that car chase and they all are like, “Oh my gosh, this is so beautiful.” So they’re beautiful movies, they’re incredible movies.

Ryan Coogler: Right on.

Greg Iwinski: As soon as This is out on Blu-Ray, I’ll have it have in 4K and I’ll, I’ll be showing people off the new one.

Ryan Coogler: Right on.

Greg Iwinski: Yeah. But thank you guys so much for coming on. I really appreciate it.

Ryan Coogler: Thanks for having us.

Joe Robert Cole: It’s a pleasure, man. Thank you.

Speaker 1: OnWriting is a production of the Writer’s Guild of America East. This series was created and is produced by Jason Gordon. Our associate producer and designer is Molly Beer. Tech production and original music by Taylor Bradshaw and Stock Boy Creative. You can learn more about the Writers Guild of America East You can follow the guild on all social media platforms at WGA East. If you like this podcast, please subscribe and rate us. Thank you for listening and write on.


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