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Principal photography on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever officially kicked off last summer. But before a single shred of new material was filmed, director/co-writer Ryan Coogler and several members of the principal cast decided to visit the grave of Chadwick Boseman.
The actor's sudden and tragic death in late August of 2020 after a private battle with Stage IV colon cancer cast a dark cloud over the MCU and placed the future of the Black Panther film series in doubt. How could the nation of Wakanda move on without the ultimate presence of King T'Challa? It seemed like a rather impossible feat; Boseman's shoes were simply too big to fill. "Chad was a great artist, but also a great man," Coogler told Empire for the magazine's November 2022 issue. "It's rare that those things match up."
In the end, Marvel Studios decided that the beloved role would not be recast and nor would T'Challa be resurrected with digital fakery. Boseman would be allowed to rest in peace, honored both in the upcoming sequel and in the real world. Indeed, the second chapter explores the immediate geopolitical fallout of T'Challa's death as Wakanda fights to protect itself from the influence of other world powers and the arrival of the Sub-Mariner himself, Namor (Tenoch Huerta).
"It was essential," Lupita Nyong'o (returning to play the character of Nakia, the king's old friend and confidant) said to Empire when the conversation landed on her visit to Boseman's final resting place in South Carolina. "To have that moment to physically go and pay our respects, an to be with members of his family gave me an emotional allowance to step back into that world in a way that I couldn't know I needed until I was there."
"By remembering and saying the name of the people we've lost, we continue to add power to their name," continued Domonique Thorne (making her MCU debut as Riri Williams, aka Ironheart, in Wakanda Forever ahead of the hero's standalone TV series on Disney+). "And that's exactly what we did that day by telling and hearing stories about him. I can't imagine having started this journey any other way."
While the screenplay obviously had to be retooled with co-screenwriter Joe Robert Cole, Coogler still wanted a final product that would be "spiritually very similar" to the movie he envisioned prior to Boseman's passing. "This unique group is more like a band than it is a group of actors, and Chad was our lead singer," the filmmaker added. "So for me, it was like, 'How do I figure out a song that they can still get up there and sing?' in light of what we were dealing with."
This new script was enough to reduce Nyong'o to tears: "I was so relieved that I didn't have to pretend that he didn't die."
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits the big screen Friday, Nov. 11.
Looking for more sci-fi content? Check out shows like Resident Alien, Brave New World, Project Blue Book, Eureka, Heroes, Intergalactic, and more streaming now on Peacock.