Can we take a moment to talk about Winston Duke?

From the moment we first found out that Tobagonian Winston Duke would be hitting the big screen with some of the heavy hitters in Black Hollywood in one of the biggest films of the year, our island pride blew through the roof.

We’re always proud to see one of our own doing their own thing in whatever lane they’re in on a global scale. For many women, that island pride quickly turned to thirst as Duke’s character M’baku hit a nerve with our innermost carnal desires.

As Black Panther surpassed everyone’s expectations both with its powerful cinematic experience and box office records, one thing stood out: Winston Duke. He was quickly dubbed as the breakout star of the film, with his small yet riveting performance. He commanded your attention every time he graced the screen, he made you want more.

We patiently waited to see him in Avengers: Infinity War and rejoiced when we found out that he’d be reprising his role in the highly-anticipated Avengers: Endgame, slated to hit theatres at the end of April.

Winston Duke had quickly become a household name in less than a year but the question for some was, considering the role he’d taken in such a huge franchise, would he be able to flex his acting muscle in other roles or doomed to be typecast as the tough guy with witty one-liners?

M'baku fight scene
Fight scene from ‘Black Panther’

It was a question that came to the fore when it was announced that he’d be co-starring with his Black Panther mate Lupita Nyong’o in Jordan Peele’s sophomore thriller, Us.

Indeed, Peele himself admitted that he thought that Duke may have been “too tough” to portray Us‘ patriarch, Gabe Wilson. He told The Hollywood Reporter that because Duke was primarily known for his MCU character, he was concerned it would have coloured the Us viewer experience.

“It would take away from our ability to feel afraid [for the family] if they have M’Baku on their side. [On the other hand] Winston had this charisma that just stole scenes and really left an impression.”

Duke himself has admitted that while he enjoyed playing M’baku, he wanted to explore other roles that fully delved into the full spectrum of masculinity.

“I was in conversation for a lot of [roles in which] the character was a fighter, a big guy — he’s aggressive, a warrior. I loved playing M’Baku, but that’s not who I am. I want to convey the full spectrum of masculinity. I want people to say that this guy helped change the definition of masculinity onscreen 40 years from now. I’m trying to be that person.”

Image result for winston duke us scene
Winston Duke and Lupita Nyong’o in ‘Us’

In his role as Gabe Wilson, we saw an interesting difference between his previous role where he wasn’t exactly the overtly strong, Black hero we expected. Of course, as a father and husband, he tried in his own way to protect his family as much as he could while trying to understand the entities that were the Tethered. However, Gabe is a little more complicated; he’s a little less headstrong and more easygoing. Even though Adelaide tried warning him about impending danger, he doesn’t exactly listen. His privilege and desires to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ almost blinds him and initially sets the family back when the Tethered first make their appearance.

“I saw Gabe as becoming so privileged, existing within so much privilege that he becomes blinded,” Duke said during a recent interview with The Breakfast Club. “He can’t see so many things that are happening around him, he can’t see real danger unless it manifests in a white way of seeing danger like a threat to property. He’s the husband, he’s the patriarch and as long as she’s smiling she’s good.”

This is a stark contrast to his doppelganger.

“Gabe is a husband but his doppelganger is a partner. The doppelganger doesn’t have any privilege, he can’t even see, which forces him to develop different senses; he’s a survivor. He’s a partner, he’s there to service and serve a function for his partner, Red. He’s there to make sure the mission works, she’s not interrupted and he’s tuned into her.”

If Us is any indicator of anything, it’s that we’ve only scratched the surface of Duke’s range and talent and we can’t wait to see more of what he’s got to offer. The actor has quite a diverse plate of roles coming up. He’s set to appear in Peter Berg’s novel adaptation Wonderland, has been cast as MMA legend Kimbo Slice in the upcoming biopic about him, Backyard Legend and will star in the action-thriller film Heroine.

Ricqcolia The Magazine

A Trinidad & Tobago woman’s guide to beauty, lifestyle and wellness

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