The character of King T’Challa, the Black Panther, appeared in four Marvel Cinematic Universe films including his own origin story Black Panther, so when the actor that played him died in 2020, there was a big question as to how filmmakers would tackle his absence. With the release of the sequel, many fans are wondering: Is Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever? And if not, how would they honor his character’s memory?
Boseman reportedly received the script for Wakanda Forever merely two weeks before he passed away from Stage 4 colon cancer at age 43 on August 28, 2020. But according to the sequel’s director, Ryan Coogler, the star was too tired to read it. In a story for Variety, the Wakanda Forever filmmaker Ryan Coogler said Boseman hadn’t read the script for the Black Panther sequel because his battle with cancer had exhausted him. “He hadn’t read it,” Coogler said. “I found out later he was … “I can write this,” he says finally. “It’s harder for me to say it.” The note, according to Variety, essentially said that Boseman was “too tired” to read the script. “That’s what was going on,” said Coogler. So how was Chadwick Boseman written out of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever? Read on to find out how the filmmakers paid homage to this very special actor.
Is Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever?
Is Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever? The short answer is kind of. The film deals with Boseman’s real-life death by having T’Challa succumb to a mysterious illness within the film. Shuri (Letitia Wright), his genius half-sister, tries desperately to save her brother by attempting to reinvigorate the Heart-Shaped Herb—the plant that grants Black Panther powers to whoever consumes it —but T’Challa passes before she can solve the equation.
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige said in a statement at the time of Boseman’s death, that “Chadwick’s passing is absolutely devastating. He was our T’Challa, our Black Panther, and our dear friend. Each time he stepped on set, he radiated charisma and joy, and each time he appeared on screen, he created something truly indelible. He embodied a lot of amazing people in his work, and nobody was better at bringing great men to life. He was as smart and kind and powerful and strong as any person he portrayed. Now he takes his place alongside them as an icon for the ages. The Marvel Studios family deeply mourns his loss, and we are grieving tonight with his family.”
How was Chadwick Boseman written out of Black Panther?
Warning: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever spoilers ahead. How was Chadwick Boseman written out of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever? He wasn’t really, in fact, his death and the family’s grief play a central role in the plot, particularly for his sister, Shuri. That anguish was real for the cast members who were mourning the loss of Boseman and they channeled those emotions onto the screen. “The challenge was just being vulnerable with what we were feeling and stepping into Wakanda without our King, which is one of the most difficult things we could’ve done,” Wright told Bet.com. “As I felt that difficulty, I allowed that to pour into Shuri—when you’re hit with losing someone, the inner circle feels it first before it starts to get to the outer circle. The people who love T’Challa the most would feel it, so I allowed what I felt to pour into Shuri and for us to follow her journey into womanhood.”
In the opening credits, Marvel usually features all MCU characters in a flip-book graphic, but for this film, it was all Boseman in the first instance of the production studio honoring his memory. In one of the final scenes where Shuri burns her funeral robes to close that chapter of mourning for her brother, there’s a montage of Boseman’s scenes from previous films portrayed as Shuri’s memories.
In an interview with Empire magazine in 2022, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige explained why the studio decided to not recast T’Challa after Boseman’s death. “It just felt like it was much too soon to recast,” he said. “Stan Lee always said that Marvel represents the world outside your window. And we had talked about how, as extraordinary and fantastical as our characters and stories are, there’s a relatable and human element to everything we do. The world is still processing the loss of Chad. And [director] Ryan [Coogler] poured that into the story.” He continued, “The conversations were entirely about, yes, ‘What do we do next?’ And how could the legacy of Chadwick — and what he had done to help Wakanda and the Black Panther become these incredible, aspirational, iconic ideas — continue? That’s what it was all about.”
Feige expanded on this point in an interview with Deadline in 2021, explaining that there would be no CGI T’Challa in the sequel to Black Panther either: “So much of the comics and that first movie is the world of Wakanda. Wakanda is a place to further explore with characters and different subcultures. This was always and initially the primary focus of the next story. We’re not going to have a CG Chadwick and we’re not recasting T’Challa.”
He continued: “Ryan Coogler is working very hard right now on the [Wakanda Forever] script with all the respect and love and genius that he has, which gives us great solace, so it was always about furthering the mythology and the inspiration of Wakanda. There’s also the task of honoring and respecting the ongoing learnings and teachings from Chad as well.”
Producer Nate Moore also explained why T’Challa wasn’t recast in a 2021 interview on The Ringer-Verse podcast. “We just couldn’t do it,” he said. “When Chad passed, it was a real conversation we had with [director Ryan] Coogler about what do we do, and it was a fast conversation,” Moore said. “I think we all feel so much of T’Challa in the MCU on the screen – not in comics – is tied to Chadwick’s performance, is what he brought to that role both on and off-screen.” He added that the most difficult challenge of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was how to tell “a story without T’Challa.” He continued, “[There will be a] level of … catharsis in people coming back this universe without that guy because that guy and that universe to me are one in the same”.
As a result, Shuri takes over the Black Panther mantle in Wakanda Forever in a scene that had cinema audiences cheering in their seats. Having figured out the solution to bringing the Heart-Shaped Herb back, Shuri visits the Ancestral Plane and wakes up with the superhero powers of the Black Panther coursing through her veins. “Letitia was hired because she, No. 1, was a great actor, but No. 2, she provided a levity to the film,” the president of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige told Variety. “Now the entire weight of the movie and of the kingdom of Wakanda was on her shoulders in the next movie in a way that obviously no one expected.”
Whether Shuri will carry on as the Black Panther in future films is unclear, but those on the creative side are open to exploring the African nation as much as they can. Wakanda Forever producer Nate Moore told Variety plenty of ideas were floating around as to where to take the Wakandan story next. “This world is expansive, and there are so many great characters,” Moore says. “Beyond what happens with this film, there are more opportunities to go back to Wakanda.”
In an emotional post-credits scene, it’s revealed T’Challa and Nakia had a son, born shortly after the Blip. He’s introduced to his aunt Shuri as Toussaint, which is his Haitian name. His Wakandan name is T’Challa, son of T’Challa. This leaves the possibility open for a T’Challa to continue to exist in the MCU. It’s also a lovely tribute to the late Boseman.
For more about Chadwick Boseman, read Mia Johnson’s 2020 biography, Chadwick Boseman: Forever Our King. The book, which was published four months after Boseman’s death from colon cancer on August 28, 2020 at the age of 43, takes Marvel fans through Boseman’s career and life from how he was cast as King T’Challa in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Black Panther franchise to his secret diagnosis with colon cancer in 2016, two years before the premiere of the first Black Panther movie. The biography—which donates a portion of its proceeds to Fight Colorectal Cancer, an organization dedicated to researching and raising awareness around rectal cancer—also includes dozens of full-color photographs and details about Boseman’s childhood in South Carolina and his final days before his death. “If you love Chadwick Boseman, and who doesn’t, you need this book,” one reviewer wrote.
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