Winston Duke Got Into Marvel at a Comic Book Store with His Name on It

Complex caught up with the 'Black Panther' actor to talk all about his love for gaming, building a legacy to honor his late mother Cora Pantin, and more.

Winston Duke Gaming Interview
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Winston Duke Gaming Interview

It’s an actor’s job to entertain, but they also need entertainment. For Winston Duke, video games have been his outlet for as long as he can remember. Dating back to his childhood in Trinidad and Tobago, the 36-year-old recalls playing with the few kids in his neighborhood who had access to the latest video game consoles. 

Now that he’s one of Hollywood’s busiest stars, with roles in Black Panther, Us, and Spenser Confidential, Duke found a way to fit his favorite pastime into his hectic schedule thanks to Google’s Chromebook laptop, which runs cloud-gaming technology. As a lifelong gamer, Duke has partnered with Google to help promote their latest cloud gaming Chromebooks: the Acer Chromebook 516 GE, Asus Chromebook Vibe CX55 Flip, and Lenovo Ideapad Gaming Chromebook, which it released in 2022. 

“My life is really, really involving,” Duke tells Complex. “So it’s very hectic when I’m filming. And it consumes so much of me that when I want to turn off, I love just turning off and doing something fun and just having something that’s going to be very playful. And the Chromebook’s been really cool for that.”

Winston Duke Gaming Interview

The actor appeared in two Chromebook commercials in which he’s gaming on his laptop while his agent attempts to go over movie scripts with him but he’s too distracted to listen. (He also shot additional footage with an actual ostrich that didn’t make it into the final cut.) While the agent storyline in the commercial is funny, it’s not something that happens in real life. When he’s at work, he stays focused. “When I’m on set, I am in it,” he says. “Once I can take off the character, I need that outlet of something to just not have too much stress on my mind. And that’s why the games are so important. I go home, turn on my game, and turn on my Assassin’s Creed.”

Aside from his love of video games—his favorites include classics like Marvel vs. Capcom, Street Fighter, and Mortal Kombat—Duke saw this as an opportunity to team up with a company to also help people, especially children in his community, by providing them access to technology that may be out of their reach. Building a legacy outside of acting has always been a priority for Duke. He also is an ambassador for Partners in Health, which he joined to help people get access to the COVID-19 vaccine. “I’m not afraid to say I’m obsessed with legacy,” the actor told Complex in a previous interview. “I’m trying to live in my present the way I would like to be remembered in the future.”

Complex caught up with Duke to talk all about his love for gaming, building a legacy to honor his late mother Cora Pantin, and more. 

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I’m always so excited to hear about actors’ hobbies or interests. You’re a gamer. So can you talk to me a little bit about your experience with gaming and how far back your memories go when it comes to video games and that world?

Yeah. My memories go all the way back to when the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis were really big.

Oh my God. Yeah. Same.

Oh, yeah. And I guess I’m dating myself, but as a kid in the Caribbean, it was like one or two kids in the neighborhood that always had the video games, and I wasn’t one of the kids that had the video games. And we’d all congregate at their house, and it would be the thing of the season. You know what I mean? Like when they got a new game, we’d all be playing these games, and it was always the communal games like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and things like that.

So those games became this incredible outlet and opportunity to just spend time with your friends. It wasn’t the, per se, adventure games. Right? So I still enjoy playing those games as my outlets and then they give me an opportunity to play with friends or play online, so I still kind of develop a little bit of a community. Those were my memories. And then coming to the States, one of the things that I would do in Brooklyn would be I’d go to this arcade near my school for maybe 45 minutes after school to just spend time and hang out, and my mom and sister would get home from work and from school maybe an hour later. So it would be part of my routine to go to the arcade.

Do you remember the name of it?

Oh, God. I can’t remember. I don’t know if it’s still there. It definitely wouldn’t still be there. A lot of those places, during the gentrification of those Brooklyn neighborhoods, a lot of those small neighborhood arcades and comic book stores aren’t. My comic book store in that neighborhood was actually called Winston’s Comic Book Store.

Oh, wow. Talk about foreshadowing, huh?

Isn’t it crazy? And she would give me free comic books. No, not free. She would loan me the comic books, because I couldn’t pay all the time for the things, but I’d always come. So she would say I can take home these comics and bring them back all the time. Her name was Miss Winston actually, but she owned Winston’s Comic Book Store. And that’s where I got into Marvel for the first time. So all these things are kind of full circle.

Everything aligns.

Crazy alignment. And one of my favorite games was the Marvel vs. Capcom fighting game. So it would be like Street Fighter versus X-Men and things like that, and Iron Man and all these characters, and the Hulk. So those were my favorite games.

You said you used to go to the arcade and the comic book store after school. Would you say that that’s a way maybe for you and other kids to stay out of trouble? 

Yeah, I think it was a really great outlet, and it was one that included kind of liberating your imagination. It was a way for me to stay away from trouble. I wasn’t really at risk of becoming a kid that would get into trouble, but there was a lot of trouble around the neighborhood that could happen to me. Because as a kid, I got robbed in that neighborhood by some older kids. I was in seventh grade, and I got mugged by some high school gang member kids, which is actually the reason I stopped going to that particular arcade. That was the reason I stopped going there because I had gotten robbed on the way home. So I stopped taking that route home. So it kind of killed that treat for me a little bit.

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I watched the Google Chromebook commercial about you being like an undercover gamer. You’re so naturally funny in it. Can you talk about that experience and the filming process of it?

Oh, man. Yeah. The filming process was really organic. So it was supposed to be the other way around, where I am the client and I’m an actor, and my agent is supposed to be the undercover gamer. And I’m telling her my dreams and she’s playing video games. And I was like, “That’s not realistic at all. It’s more realistic if I’m the one who’s pretending to be listening to my agent and these crazy script ideas.” And we actually improvised a couple of scenes that just didn’t make it, but we had improvised scenes of them telling me these crazy ideas for scripts. And I’m just like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s amazing. That’s super cool.” And I’m playing the video game.

But it was really great to just improvise some of that stuff and have a little bit of creative agency in what the short story would be, and it feels a lot more like me. So it was really fun to kind of do that. We also shot one of the commercials with a real-life … Is it an emu? What was it? What’s the other one? They run really fast. They’re birds. An ostrich! So we shot [footage with] one. I don’t know if they can give you guys some sort of behind-the-scenes access to the footage with the ostrich, but there’s really a real-life ostrich.

Winston Duke Gaming

How was that?

It was scary. It was like a dinosaur. It was a complete dinosaur. I had a scene with a dinosaur. And she snapped at my face. So we were like, “OK, this is insane.” So it was a fun day and we just did a lot of experimentation and it was a pretty cool experience.

For sure. In the commercial, your agent catches you gaming while you’re supposed to be reading a script. Is that something that mirrors what happens in real life when you’re on set? Do you sneak away to play a little game here and there?

No, that never happens. When I’m on set, I am in it. The thing about the movie world is [there is] a lot of “hurry up and wait,” which means that you’ve got to stay in character for 14 hours a day, 12 to 14 hours a day, and keeping your focus is integral to doing the work, right? Because the work isn’t always onscreen. 

It’s keeping the things alive that you’ve prepped for the scene. So once I can take off the character, I need that outlet of something to just not have too much stress on my mind. And that’s why the games are so important. I go home and turn on my Assassin’s Creed. And with this, what’s really great about the Chromebook is that it allows for cloud gaming, which you can just jump on and access this entire library of incredible games. And there’s no fuss, no muss. So I just jump on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla or a Star Wars game, and I’m playing that game and I’ll fall asleep. Or I’ll hop on and play, like, Tekken and fight some people online. Or one of my other favorite games is this one called Dynasty Warriors, wherein I’m just this badass warrior who will take on an army of 300 people by themselves. It’s pretty cool. So it’s things like that that just get me pressing buttons and watching cool things that really just take the stress away.

It allows you to disconnect a little bit, which I think we all need. You have such a busy life. Is it important for you with a Google Chromebook to have something that you can do on the go?

So essentially, my little secret is I’ll just carry either my Xbox controller or one of my PlayStation wireless controllers, and you just hook that up wirelessly to the Chromebook. And I’ll just play that on the plane because I’ll get good enough streaming service on the plane and I’ll do that. So for my trip, that’s, what, a 14-hour flight to Australia? It was a perfect time to just catch up on some gaming.

That’s perfect. I’m always also very interested in the partnerships and the companies that actors and celebrities partner with. So can you share why you thought this was a good company for you to partner with?

Yeah. I’ve always been really impressed with how important the science and technology education work, like the STEM work, has been with Google. And it’s always been really impressive some of the inroads that it has with that kind of work. So that’s one thing that is really big for me, which is legacy. I’ve always wondered what my legacy is going to be and what I’m going to leave here. So I love creating experiences for people.

Not only has it been really rewarding to shoot the commercial and work with Google on its new products, but we’ve explored conversations on the communities that I’m a part of and that I have an interest in, and how it can help me create a footprint, a legacy with some of those communities in the STEM field and in the STEM pursuit. That’s one thing that means a lot to me. I’m really excited to talk to you guys a little bit more in the future about how that stuff is evolving because we’ve got some really great ideas and some really beautiful things that we’re planning. I’m very excited about exploring more of that line of partnership as well with it. 

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