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Zazie Beetz And Winston Duke Dish On Their Uplifting New Film Nine Days, Black Panther, And Deadpool - Exclusive Interview

Before the pandemic hit, Zazie Beetz and Winston Duke took a detour from Marvel movies to join the unique indie film "Nine Days." The movie faced more than a few roadblocks, with theaters closing in 2020 and pushing dozens of release dates. Now, over a year after its Sundance debut, fans can finally watch the end result — a movie that tackles life, loss, and what it means to be human. Duke plays Will, a former living human who now decides which souls will get the chance to experience life on Earth and which will cease to exist. Beetz's character, Emma, challenges the rigid beliefs Will has settled into since ending his life on Earth. 

Before contemplating life's greatest mysteries onscreen, Beetz played Domino in Marvel's "Deadpool 2," while Duke made a splash in the MCU as M'Baku in "Black Panther" and the final two "Avengers" films in Phase 3 of the MCU. Duke will also star in the "Black Panther" sequel, "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever."

During our exclusive interview, Beetz and Duke dished on "Nine Days," their favorite scenes from the film, and why the movie is so powerful in today's climate. They also covered their respective Marvel franchises, "Deadpool" and "Black Panther" — and Duke reminisced about his time working with the late, great Chadwick Boseman.

Marvel to indie without missing any Beetz

The film is so subtle and introspective in terms of the set and the script, compared to some of the major blockbuster films that you guys have both been a part of. What's the biggest difference between acting in a film like this and a big Marvel movie?

Zazie Beetz: I think that acting in a film like this is in some ways ... there are similarities in terms of, you always prepare for your character, there is an emotional story going on in everything you do. And I felt sort of in that way there's a similarity. I think in indie films, there's a bit more agency where your voice is a little bit larger in the room because there are also less people involved. There's more of a kind of collaborative shaping of story, versus if you're an actor coming into a larger thing that's been in a larger production space for a while, and you do your part and, of course, you have influence over that. But in a smaller film, you get a bit more.

And so I would say in some ways you feel like it's a bit more yours and like when it comes out into the world, that's why people often feel very connected to the indie movies. You shed blood, sweat, and tears on these larger ones, but I'd say sometimes even more so in the indie productions.

Defining happiness

Your characters specifically are more relevant now than ever, even more than when you guys filmed it. I think a lot of people did some serious soul searching during quarantine. What do you think viewers can take away from your characters' journeys of self-discovery?

Winston Duke: I think viewers can take away the idea of acceptance. I feel that a lot of us try to push away aspects of ourselves that aren't always the most pleasant for us to see. And we also assume that unpleasantness will be unpleasant for anyone else to see.

But in actuality, it's that duality — and accepting that duality — that allows us to feel whole. And Will is a person that is always pushing away his shadows, pushing away what feels like his weaknesses. To some degree, the other candidates are all archetypes of his own self-deprecation, and he literally allows them to fade away into oblivion. And I think we tend to try to do that often, but we can't.

And it's inside that acceptance where there's a lot of love. There's a lot of power, there's a lot of maturity in accepting yourself fully as one whole being. I read something recently that said "Happiness is for adults." And what I got out of that is that you need to be mature to be actually happy — realistic happiness, not temporary happiness or fleeting happiness, for real happiness comes with maturity. Real happiness comes by being an adult and accepting things.

Finding the beauty of life

Do you guys have a favorite scene from the movie?

Zazie Beetz: I think for me, it's probably by the final scene between Winston and me. I think it was a special thing to shoot, and I think it was this ... I don't know, it just felt like a culmination of everything just building and then taking its place in the finale, and the desert also is such a special place to be in. Winston just did an incredible job with that monologue. I just really enjoyed that scene, enjoyed shooting that scene a lot.

Winston Duke: Yeah, my favorite scene is probably the bicycle scene. I just found that to just be so beautiful. And I found that I took so much joy, and I got so much of an understanding of Will, from the experiences that he created and the amount of effort that he must have put into creating those experiences to be such ... Just be so lifelike and realistic and hyper-realistic as they were. So I love the cherry blossoms, I love the bicycling, and I love the beach scene. I love what that looked like and what that felt like and the size of it, and the feel of it.

Remembering Chadwick Boseman

Winston, what was it like working with Chadwick Boseman on "Black Panther"? And is there a memory or moment from that set that stands out to you the most?

Winston Duke: Yeah, so many stand out to me, but just ... I remember I was trying to lose weight to get into M'Baku, and I was asking him what does he do. "You've done this before. Any help you can get me or give me?" And he would allow me to use his trainer, and he would allow me to use his fight stunt guy. That was his own private stunt guy.

And then I asked him that question, and he said, "At the end of the day, these people are going to get what they're going get. Don't stress it. Just worry about putting it into your acting. If you play a guy who's muscularly present, they will believe that you are muscularly present and you are already very muscularly present. So just trust that they're going to get what they're going to get. Don't stress it." And that gave me a lot of permission to just let go. And in that letting go, I found so much joy.

Incredible. Can you tell us anything about the upcoming "Black Panther" film?

I can't tell you anything at all. You know it.

I know, but I've got to ask. [Laughs]

You know it.

Making MCU history

Winston, how did it feel to be such a big part of such a groundbreaking Marvel film that's extended so far into this universe?

Winston Duke: I always say that I entered into "Black Panther" as an actor, and I came out of it as this cultural ambassador for Wakanda. And it kind of just launched me into this space where everything I do means so much extra. And I stopped being just a representative from my little island in Trinidad and Tobago. I stopped being just a representative from my little community. I'm now so much more, and that's changed my life, and it's never lost on me, though — a responsibility that I carry.

And your character had a pretty pivotal role in taking down Thanos with the Avengers. Would you consider him an Avenger now, and would you be down to officially become an Avenger in a future "Avengers" film? Or do you like that he sort of does his own thing separately?

Winston Duke: You're so slick. You're slick. You think you're slick. You also asked that question so casually, so casually. You know I can't say nothing. You know I can't say nothing. You're good, though. [Laughs]

The dominoes fall into place

Zazie, can you recall any ad-libbed lines from you or the rest of the cast from "Deadpool 2"? And can you remember anything weird or hilarious that Ryan Reynolds did during the film or behind the scenes?

Zazie Beetz: I would say almost everything is ad-libbed in that movie, which is not true, actually. I would say Ryan would actually always come in prepared with like ten alts for every character. I would say he's one of the hardest-working people I've worked with. First one there, last one to go.

In terms of funny stuff off-set, I mean, Josh Brolin loved a good fart joke. He was good at them. And I don't know. I don't remember anything specific off the top of my head. I can't believe that was four years ago when we shot.

Winston Duke: Crazy.

Wow, so wild. Would you be down for a "Deadpool 3" if given the chance?

Zazie Beetz: Absolutely, absolutely. From the beginning, they had talked about it while we were shooting it. They were actually talking about ideas. They had, I think they had already partially written a script. So I don't know where they're at with that, but I would happily join in if they gave me a call. It'd be an honor.

Audiences located in New York and L.A. can enjoy the film in theaters on July 30, followed by a nationwide expansion on August 6.