Birthdate: November 15, 1986
Birthplace: Trinidad and Tobago
Winston Duke is a major player in the post-2017 phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as fearsome supervillain M’Baku. Fresh out of Yale School of Drama, Duke performed with the Portland Stage Company, Yale Repertory Theatre, and in theater in his native Trinidad and Tobago before landing a string of roles in major U.S. TV series, including Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2014), Person of Interest (2014-2015), Major Crimes (2015), and Modern Family (2016).
Duke landed the highly coveted role of M’Baku for two back-to-back MCU mega-blockbusters in 2018: writer-director Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther and the Russo Brothers’ Avengers: Infinity War, immediately thrusting him into the huge spotlight associated with the two franchises and earning him acting nominations from the Screen Actors Guild (Best Cast) and MTV Movie Awards (Best Fight).
This MCU double-play was really a triple-play, as Duke again appeared as M’Baku in the Russo Brothers’ follow-up Avengers: Endgame (2019). But in between these projects, Duke displayed his range in the double role of Gabe and Abraham in writer-director Jordan Peele’s chilling horror saga, Us (2019), playing opposite his Yale drama school pal Lupita Nyong’o, Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker.
Remarkably, in his first two years in the movies, the four movies in which Duke co-starred grossed nearly $6.5 billion. In a dramatic change of pace, Duke starred in, and executive produced writer-director Edson Oda’s feature debut, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, Nine Days (2020), with Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Tony Hale, and Bill Skarsgård.
By this point, Winston Duke was at a stature where he would star or co-star in nearly any project he was cast in, such as Spenser Confidential (2020), based on Ace Atkins’ novel, Wonderland, and starring Mark Wahlberg, Alan Arkin, Bokeem Woodbine, and Marc Maron.
Duke returned as M’Baku in the much-anticipated follow-up, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022), with Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Dania Gurira, and Angela Bassett, with Coogler, again directing and co-writing (with Joe Robert Cole). Duke’s next non-MCU project is as a co-star in the big-screen version of Glen Larson’s hit 1980s TV show, The Fall Guy (2024), directed by David Leitch and co-starring Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Stephanie Hsu.
Winston Duke was born and raised in the village of Argyle on the eastern side of the island of Tobago in the nation-state of Trinidad and Tobago, until he was nine years old, when his mother, Cora Pantin (a government worker and restauranteur), and his older sister moved to Brooklyn, New York in order to support his sister’s plans to be a doctor.
Duke’s cousin is a Tobagonian politician and head of the Progressive Democratic Patriots Party, Watson Duke. His family then moved to Rochester, New York, where Duke attended Brighton High School and graduated in 2004. He received a B.A. in Theater at the University of Buffalo and then did his Master of Fine Arts studies in Acting at Yale School of Drama, where he graduated in 2013. Duke’s height is 6’ 5”.
Researcher: In preparing his roles, Winston Duke engages in deep research; for example, to attain the desired accent for his line deliveries as M’Baku, Duke researched various Nigerian accents as a way of separating the character from his South African-based counterpart in Black Panther.
Connections: Duke’s connections to members of the Black Panther cast include Yale chum Lupita Nyong’o and Angela Bassett, who had founded the Black drama students’ group Folks at Yale.