There are “big years” for actors, and then there was Winston Duke’s 2018. In February, the actor made his big-screen debut as M’Baku, T’Challa’s fierce rival in Black Panther, the Oscar-winning, highest-grossing film of the year; two months later he reprised the role in a small film called Avengers: Infinity War. As that film was still tearing up the box office, Duke was cast in Jordan Peele’s Get Out follow-up, Us, which will — after one of the most chillingly effective marketing campaigns ever — open the SXSW Film Festival.
None of it, though, is getting to his head. “Coming off Black Panther, I also felt the pressure to prove myself, but I didn’t go into Us manifesting that,” says Duke. “I just went into it saying, ‘I’m trusting Jordan. I’m trusting this piece because it’s original and bold and thoughtful and provocative.’”
“That was refreshing,” he continues. “Every day we would come back to work feeling recharged. If you had a tough day of running for your life, or putting in emotional extremes, the next day you’re like that! [makes sweeping hand motion] And I’m back, baby.”
His second-ever trip to Austin to promote Us is quite an upgrade from his first trip — a couples weekend vacation while still a struggling actor. “I remember great food, we saw a ton of live music, and I thought [Austin] is one of the only places in the States that calls out to me — like I could live here,” says Duke. “It’s just a welcoming city.” The city is set to be even more welcoming this time around, as the proud Tobagonian is likely to be greeted by adoring fans wherever he goes. And yes, some will likely holler his Black Panther character’s war cry at him.