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Here's How Michael B. Jordan's Black Panther Makeup Was Done

It's not easy playing a Marvel villain. Beyond embodying a character with motivations and mottos completely different from their own, actors often spend months preparing for their roles as MCU baddies, then dedicate even more time in the make-up chair each day to complete their transformation from normal human to larger-than-life villain.

Such was the case for Michael B. Jordan, who portrayed the villain Erik "Killmonger" Stevens in director Ryan Coogler's Black Panther. Not only did Jordan get totally ripped to take on the role in the Chadwick Boseman-led flick, but he also underwent a lengthy make-up application process to rock Killmonger's scarred look. 

Thanks to a video from Insiderwe know exactly what Jordan had to go through to become the Black Panther villain. 

Unlike some of his fellow Marvel Cinematic Universe stars, like Guardians of the Galaxy actresses Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan, Jordan didn't have much applied to his face when he was sitting in the make-up chair. Instead, the focus of his Black Panther make-up was the scars that dotted his body — one scar for each person Killmonger killed. These self-inflicted scarification dots don't actually appear on Killmonger in the Marvel comics, but were included in the film's take on the character after Oscar-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter championed for real-world African influence (like the practice of scarification as body art) to be brought into Black Panther

Morphology FX founder and Black Panther make-up artist Joel Harlow — who has previously worked on Logan, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, and Star Trek Beyond — and his team created 3,000 prosthetic beads made from a glue-like material using a mold. Then, they stuck them onto Jordan's chest, shoulders, back, arms, and stomach. 

The application process was as arduous as one would assume, especially since Jordan's muscly build meant more dots needed to be created and glued on, but the real difficulty came when it was time to shoot the sequence in which Jordan's Killmonger battles Boseman's T'Challa for the Wakandan throne and the Black Panther moniker. That scene took place in the cluster of waterfalls known as the Warrior Falls, modeled after the real-life Iguazu Falls nestled at the border of Argentina and Brazil and the Victoria Falls on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, where water was flying everywhere in a beautifully choreographed fight. The water of the setting and the physical contact required in the scene posed a big challenge, as both would compromise the make-up.

Harlow explained, "Some of the biggest challenges [were] the Warrior Falls sequence, where he's not only in the water, he's fighting. There's a lot of body contact, there's a lot of rubbing, and water is the natural enemy of make-up anyway."

Jordan passed the time in the make-up chair by listening to music, and quickly perfected his method of removing the thousands of dots at the end of each day of shooting. As he shared on Twitter in May 2018, Jordan simply stepped into a steam room and away the tiny prosthetics slipped: "The sauna was clutch to taking them off," he tweeted. 

Although it was difficult getting the make-up for the film on point, Harlow was very proud of his work — which also included making the accessories for Shuri actress Letitia Wright, creating the facial dots for W'Kabi actor Daniel Kaluuya, and making the lip disc for Isaach de Bankolé's character, a Wakandan elder part of the River Tribe. 

"Being a part of Black Panther, it's tremendously satisfying to see the reception that this movie has gotten," said Harlow. "All of our performers embracing these looks, you know, embracing the message behind the movie, made for a pretty magical experience filming it, but more so watching it." 

Harlow's hard work more than paid off, as it undoubtedly contributed to the immense critical and commercial success of Black Panther. When the film opened in theaters in February 2018, it shattered a number of records — like top-grossing solo superhero movie, best-earning superhero movie directed by a black filmmaker, and biggest opening weekend for a film with a predominantly black castBlack Panther went on to earn $1.35 billion worldwide; sweeping praise from critics who commended the acting, direction, costume design, and make-up; and several Academy Awards. And Harlow didn't go without recognition either: he and his fellow Black Panther make-up artists Camille Friend and Ken Diaz were nominated for a Critics' Choice Movie Awards accolade for Best Hair and Make Up. Along with Diaz, Harlow then won the Saturn Award for Best Film Make-Up for his work on Black Panther

This all proves that so much effort goes into bringing comic book characters to life for feature films — more than most fans realize. For Jordan's sake, let's just hope that if Killmonger somehow returns for the Black Panther sequel, the villain will keep his shirt on... or that Jordan's trailer will come with a sauna built right in.