To say that the shocking death of Chadwick Boseman left the world a lesser place is an understatement. For the sake of privacy, the star of Da Five Bloods and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom kept his colon cancer diagnosis a secret from most of the world, which means his passing at the age of 43 shocked not only those who knew and loved him, but also his co-workers who saw nothing but a bright future for the immensely talented actor.
That includes Black Panther director Ryan Coogler, who had co-written a sequel script with Joe Robert Cole that put T’Challa at the center. “The script we wrote before Chadwick passed was very much rooted in T’Challa’s perspective,” Coogler told The Hollywood Reporter. “It was a massive movie,” he admitted, “but also simultaneously a character study that delved deeply into his psyche and situation.”
As described by Coogler, the script would be very much in line with the first film. Although it was a big-budget Marvel movie with all the spectacle one would expect, it was also the story of a rich man coming to understand his privilege and responsibility to others. Through the suffering of his cousin N’Jada aka Erik Killmonger Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) and the example set by women such as Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Okoye (Danai Gurira), T’Challa came to reject his predecessors’ isolationist ways and share Wakanda’s advancements with the world. Coogler and Cole’s original sequel script would have continued that storyline, focusing on T’Challa’s struggle to become a leader on a world stage without the model of previous leaders to follow.
Such a complex plot requires an actor as giving as Boseman, who managed to hold down the lead role of Black Panther while also shining a light on the talents of his co-stars. “Losing your centerpiece, everything changed,” Nyong’o told The Hollywood Reporter when discussing the movie without Boseman. “When you say the world rotated around him, it revolved around him, it did.” Realizing that Boseman made T’Challa into more than just a character, who can be replaced by any able actor, but into an inspiration and icon for many, Coogler and his collaborators decided to embrace the sorrow caused by the actor’s loss.
On a plot level, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever deals with the fictional country dealing with an invasion by the underwater nation of Talocan, led by Namor the Sub-mariner (Tenoch Huerta). But beyond the superheroics, which will see the introduction of teen hero Ironheart and a new Black Panther, Wakanda Forever will reflect the mourning caused by Boseman’s passing. “That is not the death of the Black Panther, that’s the whole point,” Nyong’o explained. “It’s laying to rest [T’Challa] and allowing for real life to inform the story of the movies.”
While audiences will finally get the chance to see what Coogler and Nyong’o have done when Wakanda Forever comes to theaters on November 11.