‘Black Panther’ Star Winston Duke Talks ‘Us,’ His Chance Meeting With Jordan Peele and Overnight Success

One minute, the actor was doing bit parts on ‘Law & Order: SVU.’ The next, he’s stealing scenes in Marvel movies and starring in Peele’s new thriller: “It has not been a straight path.”

Tucked away in the Palisades, just off Pacific Coast Highway, is Lake Shrine, a 10-acre self-realization retreat with a hilltop temple, a lush meditation garden and a spring-fed pond, all blocked from the wind and city bustle by a wall of trees and greenery. Here, on this overcast February morning, sitting at the water’s edge as hummingbirds and butterflies flitter nearby, is Winston Duke, the hulking 6-foot-5, 230-pound actor who played M’Baku in Black Panther and who now stars in horror auteur Jordan Peele’s Get Out follow-up, Us, which premiered March 8 at the South by Southwest Film Festival and opens March 22. (“Fiercely scary,” declared The Hollywood Reporter.)

“When I’m in Los Angeles, it feels like things never stop moving,” says Duke, 32, who often comes to the spot to meditate. “So I seek places of stillness, where the only thing moving is nature.”

Things have been moving, all right. One minute he was doing bit parts on Law & Order: SVU and playing a drug dealer on Person of Interest. The next, he’s inking a multipicture deal with Marvel (his second appearance as M’Baku was in April 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, his third will be in this April’s Avengers: Endgame, and his fourth likely will be in the Black Panther sequel that Ryan Coogler is writing) and headlining opposite Lupita Nyong’o in Peele’s hotly anticipated second act. Plus, he just wrapped work on the Netflix crime drama Wonderland, helmed by Peter Berg and starring Mark Wahlberg; signed on to Heroine, an action thriller from Paramount’s indie unit, Paramount Players; and is attached to play MMA fighting legend Kimbo Slice in an upcoming biopic.

“The intention was always to be successful. But it has not been a straight path,” Duke says, his eyes slowly following a pair of swans paddling across the still-as-glass water. “A lot of times, I didn’t know anything was going to happen.”

Duke was born in the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. But when he was 9, his single mom moved the family to Brooklyn so that his older sister could pursue medical school (she’s now an endocrinologist in Las Vegas). It was a tough adjustment. “I was very reclusive because I didn’t really understand American culture,” Duke says. He spent a lot of time at home alone while his mom worked and his sister was at school — he started watching TV and movies and reading comic books, and his new culture gradually became second nature. “Story kind of became my outlet,” he says. “I loved reenacting things I saw on TV.”

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