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'Civil War' directors on bringing Black Panther to life

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Laura Cavanaugh/FilmMagic

Captain America: Civil War was such a huge undertaking that Marvel again tapped two directors — The Winter Soldier helmers Anthony and Joe Russo — to lead the $250 million project. Speaking on the red carpet at the Civil War premiere Wednesday night, the brothers told PEOPLE and EW they fell in love with the cast of the titanic production, particularly the performance of Chadwick Boseman, while on the Civil War set.

While stars Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. might take center stage in the new film, the Russo brothers say they were specifically impressed with Boseman, the 39-year old actor who makes his superhero film debut in Civil War as Black Panther, a character who has never before appeared in a major motion picture.

“I love these characters. I love this storytelling. It’s a dream job to being work on these movies and with Marvel with people that we love, actors that we love,” Joe said. “Black Panther is so revered. It’s his first time on screen. We put so much pressure on ourselves. I think more pressure for that character alone than we did anything in the movie just because as a comic book fan I thought it was so important to get the interpretation of that character right.”

The added pressure paid off, however, as the pair says the 42 star helped craft an original portrayal of Black Panther, incorporating performative nuances that communicated the actor’s dedication to playing the part.

“You can see from the other roles that he’s done that he builds a character from a very deep place. Like what he did with Panther in this movie was remarkable. He has a martial arts history that he himself was able to use and incorporate into how the character moved,” Anthony says, particularly recalling the improvised accent Boseman incorporated into his portrayal of Black Panther. “[It] was based upon influences around where the fictional country exists in Africa and he basically stayed in that accent throughout the entire shoot so that he wouldn’t lose it. Even when he was off camera he would speak in that accent.”

Though it took the character many decades to finally appear on the big screen in Civil War, Black Panther will have his own day in the sun soon: a standalone film centered on the character from director Ryan Coogler will debut in 2018.

Captain America: Civil War, featuring Boseman as Black Panther, opens nationwide in theaters on May 6.

–Reporting by Chancellor Agard