“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” Co-writer/Director Ryan Coogler on Losing Chadwick Boseman & Carrying On
Now that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a mere month and change from its release, the excitement for the sequel is palpable. This week we’ve seen the release of the film’s official trailer, a gorgeous, somber, and riveting sneak peek at co-writer/director Ryan Coogler’s follow-up to his 2018 global juggernaut. Yet, unlike any movie in Marvel Studios’ vaunted MCU, and frankly, unlike most movies, period, Wakanda Forever arrives with an equal amount of grief.
The loss of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, at the age of 43, in 2020 after a private battle with colon cancer, shocked the world. Perhaps none of Boseman’s colleagues were as floored as his collaborator and friend, Coogler. The two of them had worked hand in glove to bring Black Panther to such vivid, game-changing life. In a moving interview with Entertainment Weekly, Coogler admits that after Boseman’s death, he seriously considered walking away not just from the world of Black Panther but from filmmaking altogether. How could he carry on living in and expanding the world of Wakanda without the man who had been such a massive part of the vision?
“I was at a point when I was like, ‘I’m walking away from this business,'” Coogler told EW. “I didn’t know if I could make another movie period, [let alone] another Black Panther movie, because it hurt a lot. I was like, ‘Man, how could I open myself up to feeling like this again?'”
Coogler eventually found his way back into the story by replaying memories of Boseman in his head and watching footage of his friend and colleague talking about the character of T’Challa and what Wakanda meant to him. “I was poring over a lot of our conversations that we had, towards what I realized was the end of his life,” Coogler told EW. It was through this meditation on his time with Boseman and Boseman’s own advocacy for the character and the world they’d built that led Coogler to believe he could carry on. “I decided that it made more sense to keep going.”
Coogler was, of course, not alone on this journey. The returning cast were all carrying the tragic loss of Boseman alongside him, including Angela Bassett (Queen Ramonda), Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia), Letitia Wright (Shuri), Danai Gurira (Okoye), and Winston Duke (M’Baku). So, too, were the returning members of the crew, including his co-writer Joe Robert Cole, production designer Hannah Beachler, and costume designer Ruth E. Carter.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will face the loss of its namesake superhero head-on. The trailer and previous teaser revealed that Wakanda will be in mourning over the loss of T’Challa, while they face an uncertain future filled with new threats (including Tenoch Huerta’s Namor). Coogler and his team carried on with an eye toward the past and the loss they suffered, and an eye towards the future, towards the rich world of Wakanda they’ve brought into the cinematic world. With the future in mind, the trailer revealed a new Black Panther—a woman—taking up the mantle for the fallen T’Challa. Whether that turns out to be T’Challa’s sister, Shuri, as it was in the comics, or someone else, it seems safe to say that Boseman would be proud that his collaborators have continued telling a story he had helped bring into the world.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever arrives on November 11.
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Featured image: Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER..L to R: Director (Ryan Coogler) and Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa/Black Panther). Photo: Matt Kennedy. ©Marvel Studios 2018