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Kevin Feige explains why it ‘was much too soon’ to replace Chadwick Boseman as ‘Black Panther’

The Marvel chief says there was never a doubt that ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ would leave the late actor’s role vacant.

Chadwick Boseman Black Panther

With the weeks ticking down to a Black Panther sequel that will be without the original movie’s irreplaceable star, Marvel already has signaled, in a high-impact trailer, how director Ryan Coogler is approaching the film's greatly-felt absence of Chadwick Boseman as King T’Challa.

Marvel’s July trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever struck a deep emotional nerve; one filled with a montage of moments that played more like a vibe than a story tease. Now Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has shared a little more of the thinking behind how the new movie will address Boseman’s 2020 passing — and he’s making it clear there was never any doubt that the new film would honor him by leaving its hero’s seat vacant.

“It just felt like it was much too soon to recast” the role of Black Panther, Feige recently explained to Empire. “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 Ryan poured that into the story.”

While giving nothing away about the story itself, Feige said the new film is all about finding a way to carry forward the themes of leadership that T’Challa’s principled guidance established in Black Panther, as well as in appearances in Captain America: Civil War and the most recent pair of Avengers movies.

“The conversations were entirely about, yes, ‘What do we do next?’ Feige said. “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’s remarks echo those of MCU producer Nate Moore, who confessed late last year that Wakanda Forever bears the dual burden of commemorating its fallen star in a respectful, authentic way — while simultaneously telling an entertaining story that advances larger MCU plot threads.

“So, beyond, ‘Hey, we want to make a big, fun time’ … It’s: 'How do we do right by his legacy and tell a story that isn’t exploitative?' — which we would never ever do — but build on the things that he loved about the property and build on the things that he brought to the property in a way that is enjoyable, feels real, feels earned, feels organic?” said Moore. “Because I think people are gonna see the movie in two lenses: pure entertainment, but also cathartic. We have to be conscious of both of those lenses as we’re making it.”

Even without King T’Challa, Wakanda still has its heroes, and Wakanda Forever returns T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) alongside Dora Milaje leader Okoye (Danai Gurira) and grieving lover Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o). As Queen Mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) makes plain in the trailer, the fight that lies ahead won’t be easy: A new threat to the kingdom’s prosperity appears in the form of the Atlanteans, led by Namor (Tenoch Huerta). “I am queen of the most powerful nation in the world — and my entire family is gone,” Regina proclaims in the trailer, with a speech that resounds like a wounded rallying cry. “Have I not given everything?”

The expectations couldn’t be higher for a movie with so much emotional weight on its shoulders. Wakanda unites to match the mettle of its fallen leader on Nov. 11, when Black Panther: Wakanda Forever makes its long-awaited debut in theaters.

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