Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is coming to theaters on November 11th and it promises to be an emotional journey. We unexpectedly lost Chadwick Boseman, who plays T’Challa in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the decision was made not to recast this character. During the press conference, the filmmakers and cast discuss the importance of honoring Chadwick and being faithful to the real life effects of grief — something they went through when they lost him. Newcomers to the MCU explained what it means to them to be a part of this incredible franchise, and in a way that brings their true ancestry and background to the screen.
Lupita Nyong’o (“Nakia”)
Letitia Wright (“Shuri”)
Danai Gurira (“Okoye”)
Tenoch Huerta (“Namor”)
Mabel Cadena (“Namora”)
Alex Livinalli (“Attuma”)
Ryan Coogler (Director)
Kevin Feige (Producer)
Nate Moore (Producer)
Honoring Chadwick Boseman
Marvel President Kevin Feige says that the shock of Chadwick Boseman’s death turned into the question of what do they do — what should they do. “Should we do anything? Relatively soon it was determined that this amazing ensemble of characters, and this world that had been created on screen, needed to continue.” He says that Ryan Coogler had been working on a script for the sequel before Chadwick’s passing. “When we lost Chad, all of that, obviously was then poured into this movie. Keeping the idea of a celebration of Wakanda, and the character, at the forefront, in addition to the grief that of course is going to come with it.”
Producer Nate Moore says that as storytellers you want to be as honest as possible with what the characters would experience. In this case, that is the loss of T’Challa — and it is not just grief. “It’s sometimes Joy, sometimes humor. It is all of the emotions anyone feels with any profound loss. But we had such a collection of talent and such a collection of characters who all have a different point of view with that loss, that I think Ryan found ways to express all the different colors of grief through the the ensemble.”
Letitia Wright, who plays Shuri, explains that she took direction from Coogler about how to act, and what to do with her character’s emotions in Wakanda Forever. “She was the person her brother went to for his protection. Her family encouraged her to be a genius and to be fearfully and wonderfully made. So we follow on from that. What does that look like? When your heart is broken? Ryan’s guidance on how do we create a full arc for this human being — this young woman going through something alongside her fellow family members and Wakandans.”
She goes on to say, “I was able to really give my heart to it. And give Shuri a full arc. And hopefully people can really resonate with that and be find some healing, alongside us with it.”
Lupita Nyong’o, who plays Nakia, recalls reading the script and being envious of Letitia because she gets to be chaotic. “That’s how I felt. I felt raw and I wanted to express it.” But that wouldn’t be true to Nakia. “She is an example of someone whose just a little further along, in terms of her processing. And it’s not like she has it all figured out.” She says that she was frustrated with Ryan at first but that ultimately playing Nakia in this way was therapeutic for her. “I had to look beyond my frustrations with losing Chadwick and learn from her. Learn from that wisdom that she seems to possess.”
Danai Gurira, who plays Okoye, says that she was able to include her personal experience with the loss of their brother, Chadwick Boseman, into her role in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. “I was going through the story. So the key thing anchoring me was the goal of honoring him. And the way he loved. He loved excellently. He loved to see us shine and loved to see us do our thing. And we would go to him and say, What do you think about this? What do you think about my character? And he would always give us so much encouragement about doing great things, and he had such great taste.”
Director Ryan Coogler talks about the choices he made with this script. Who would be at the forefront of that story and what that would look like. And he roots it all back to how real life works. “When when you lose somebody, there’s a blast radius. It’s like a bomb that goes off and who was the closest to it? That’s who we explored in the main characters. Their identities were wrapped up in this man, is the truth of it.”
Joining the MCU
Tenoch Huerta plays Namor. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the first time this fan favorite character will be seen in the MCU and so he had some big shoes to fill. The script for this film changes his origin and his ancestry quite a bit from the comic books, but this was to match his own real life background, which is incredible. When asked what it was like to join the MCU, and as an antagonist against the beloved Wakandans, he had a lot to say.
“A lot of people feel identification with Wakanda, myself included, and the narrative and representation. So, now I have to play the bad guy who tries to destroy that legacy. Ryan found a way to make the script human, to justify why people do that kind of thing. Why people choose different reactions in front of grief or the threats of the life. And that’s beautiful because it’s human. So, we have these two characters, taking different decisions with the grief and the threat. And at the same time, they share the same representation of their cultures.”
Mabel Cadena, who portrays Namora, says that she had a lot of fun. She explains there were some challenges, and that she needed a lot of training — physical and mental. “I needed to learn Mayan. We have indigenous language for the first time in a movie like this. It’s, to me, I feel proud about this challenge. It was really hard to learn about the Mayan language. My coach say to me all the time, Mabel, my people could be represented with dignity with this language.”
She adds, “This movie has a lot of diversity, a lot of colors, a lot of language, and I’m very proud to be part of something like this, because it’s not just a superhero movie. And I think the first Black Panther movie and all these characters here, the legacy about that is, for me, have the opportunity for be part of this world. I never thought I could be a superhero.”
Alex Livinalli plays Attuma and he explains that the bridge scene was the longest scene they shot in the movie. “We trained for months, me and Danai. We were in and out just rehearsing and rehearsing and rehearsing. And for me, it was such a beautiful moment to see from when we started and seeing the progress of how our dance came together. And not only that, but just getting to know her as a person, it help create a bond when we shot the fight scene. And I’m just very grateful that it was with her. And you know, I wouldn’t wanna mess with her.”
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” hits theaters on November 11th.
Tessa Smith AKA Mama's Geeky, is a journalist that covers geek and Disney culture on her own website, as well as freelances for other sites such as What's On Disney Plus and Screen Rant. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Marketing and loves all things geeky. She is a Disney Vacation Club member and a Founders Circle Member of Disney+. She is also an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes and a member of the Critics Choice Association. Tessa lives in Upstate New York with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs named Sansa and Khaleesi.