Winston Duke is one of the biggest breakout stars of Black Panther. But it turns out that his rise to fame within the Marvel Cinematic Universe is serendipitous. 

Back in his college days, Duke met another aspiring actor, Lupita Nyong'o, who gave him his first tour around their now–alma mater, Yale University. "She and I became really close because we shared that immigrant experience," said Duke, who is from Tobago, in an Esquire interview. "We shared the idea of having really big dreams knowing that we'd left our own country."

The two were so close that they even went to see Marvel's The Avengers together in the movie theaters and would often talk about the idea of bringing a black superhero to the big screen. "We would always tell ourselves that they're going to do it someday, but we could never tell who," said Duke. "At that point, there was already the Blade films, but we really didn't know how Marvel would go about doing their first African superhero."


Little did they know that they would both be a part of bringing Marvel's first African superhero to prominence as Duke and Nyong'o made their MCU debut in Black Panther together as antagonist M'Baku and T'Challa's ex-girlfriend, the spy Nakia, respectively.

Duke recounted the story (which he mentioned last fall, long before Panther-mania hit full stride) to Entertainment Weekly as well. “We were both enamored with The Hulk. We were all like Arrrgh! Every time Hulk got on the screen. And we had moments of, ‘Do you think we’ll ever be in something like this?’ That was before 12 Years a Slave. Before anything. We were both just students dreaming. What’s the future going to be like?”

Black Panther is crushing box office numbers. The film landed in the No. 2 spot, for overall opening weekend sales during President's Day weekend. God's plan.