Marvel’s Inhumans: How Black Bolt “Speaks” In The Series

A lot of general audiences may not know a lot about Inhumans — hell, my own knowledge of Inhumans is relatively limited — but if you’ve been following the upcoming ABC’s series progress, chances are you’re aware of Black Bolt’s inability to speak. Unfortunately, ol’ Bolty’s been cursed with the worst superpower ever: his voice has the ability to level entire cities.

While this particular superpower may be useful when your foe is in outer space, or on a planet or city full of no inhabitants, wildlife, or buildings, it’s not so great when in the middle of a city or kingdom of your own people. As such, Black Bolt has to largely remain silent in the series. This creates its own set of issues in terms of the actor’s ability to convey emotion, but it also makes communicating in general a tricky ordeal.

So how did the upcoming Marvel series get around that? Well, they made up a sign language for him. Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb, actor Anson Mount (who plays Black Bolt), and actress Serinda Swan (who plays Medusa) set to work on a sign language they could utilize. Obviously, since the Inhumans don’t interact with Earth, copying American Sign Language wholesale was out of the question, but it still was an influence.

Here’s what Mount said to IGN:

“I’m borrowing some of the underlying rules of ASL and what makes it work efficiently. It creates homework and it creates choreography and it creates getting things into the muscle memory. I have to get it so into my muscle memory because I can’t be thinking about it and acting at the same time. And to get yourself to go from here to here, it’s not easy. But it’s easier than learning Spanish; I’ll give you that.”

Though while this does create issues and problems for the actors to solve, it also does open up the opportunity for them to use it to help build the backstories of their characters. In this particular iteration, Black Bolt’s scary ability basically made him an outcast, and only Medusa befriended him, where they created a language for him. She later became Black Bolt’s public voice.

It’s an intriguing backstory, and if it weren’t for the fact that the trailers make the show look like the wrong kind of camp, I’d be more excited to see how it pans out. That being said, the show has had some early screenings for some critics, and despite our grievances, it’s had some fairly positive reception (surprise, right?).

Inhumans hits IMAX on September 1, 2017.

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