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Ryan Coogler on making Black Panther 2 without Chadwick Boseman: 'This one hurts'

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Mar 11, 2021, 4:11 PM EST

Chadwick Boseman's sudden passing came as a shock last year, with many fans and colleagues continuing to mourn his loss — especially those who'd worked closely with the actor, like Black Panther writer-director Ryan Coogler, who'd been getting set to return to work with him on its upcoming sequel. 

The Space Jam: New Legacy producer opened up about what it's been like working on the movie — which will start shooting later this July — during an appearance on the Jemele Hill Is Unbothered podcast, describing Boseman himself as the "glue" that held the project together. 

"It's very difficult to have perspective on something while you're going through it," said Coogler about having to work on Black Panther 2, which will neither CGI-in Boseman's likeness nor recast his character, King T'Challa, the ruler of Wakanda and the titular Black Panther. "This is one of the most profound things I've ever gone through in my life, having to be a part of keeping this project going without this particular person." 

The Black Panther sequel isn't the only Wakanda-set Marvel property Coogler is currently working on, as he's also developing a spin-off TV series for Disney+ that's set in the technologically advanced and (sadly) fictional African country, and will focus on the people who live there. But the spinoff will also have to move forward without Boseman's presence. Coogler noted Boseman had become as much a part of his personal life as his professional, with Coogler even calling him for advice at times.  

"You have a personal life, you have a professional life, you got a private life. When you work in something that you love, those things blend, they come together right? Your life kind of becomes your work for the better part of it," explained Coogler. "So, I'm trying to find a work-life balance, so I’m working on building two things that can stand on their own… I’m not there yet. This is without question, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my professional life." 

He then went on to add, "This one hurts. But it’s also incredibly motivating. Because you look back on how this guy lived his life and how he moved through the world and what he gave to us... I’m incredibly sad to lose him, but I’m also incredibly motivated that I got to spend time with him… You spend your life hearing about people like him." 

Luckily for fans, Boseman was able to give one last performance as T'Challa, which will air as part of Marvel's What If...? anthology series on Disney+. The episode will explore what it could look like had T'Challa become Star-Lord instead of Peter Quill (played by Chris Pratt in the MCU). 

As for the Black Panther sequel, aside from Coogler himself, who has written and will be directing as well, actors Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia), Letitia Wright (Shuri), Winston Duke (M'Baku), Danai Gurira (Okoye), Martin Freeman (Agent Ross), and Angela Bassett (Ramonda) are all expected to return for the movie, with it being speculated that Wright's Shuri may follow her brother T'Challa and pick up his mantle as the Black Panther — as she did in the comics.

Black Panther 2 is set to come out July 8, 2022.