As the world of Wakanda returns for the second installment in the Black Panther film series, the loss of Chadwick Boseman still feels fresh.
The acclaimed actor, who starred as its titular character, died in August 2020 after a private battle with colon cancer. After the tragic loss, the cast and creators of Wakanda Forever were tasked with delicately choosing the proper path for King T’Challa’s storyline—resulting in a film that manages to work through grief and healing.
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“I hope the audience comes to this film and takes heart,” shared Lupita Nyong’o with VIBE ahead of the release of Wakanda Forever. Poised in a black-and-white ensemble, the actress calmly reflected on the filming of the anticipated film and how the project helped her grieving process. “I hope they’re comforted by it. And I hope they’re emboldened to commit to their lives with a fullness of self as well.”
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After Boseman’s death, fans debated on whether or not T’Challa should be recast, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige explained that it was too soon. Still, the tragedy almost led director Ryan Coogler to quit. Reflecting on his conversations with Boseman, Coogler decided to press forward, and through his tenacity, others were able to move forward.
“This movie was addressing something that we were experiencing as a cast, it was actually the hardest things that were also the most joyful to film,” Nyong’o explained. “Because it meant that we could make use of our grief, we could bring our grief to work, and it was part of our artistry. So I don’t remember it with heaviness. For me, actually making this film was very therapeutic. And I felt more light than darkness making it.”
In Wakanda Forever, the film’s characters also mourn their beloved T’Challa, who passed away from an unknown illness after keeping his diagnosis secret. His love interest Nakia, played by Nyong’o, takes the escapism route for more reasons than one. Her exit and return to Wakanda are powered by her love for T’Challa, and what we later learn to be maternal instincts. Once she makes the pilgrimage home from Haiti, she and the other Wakandans are forced into a new war and new death while still mourning their fallen king.
“If we didn’t incorporate the loss, this would’ve been painful. It would’ve been unbearable maybe,” she added. “We didn’t have to pretend like we hadn’t lost our dear, dear, dear brother, and we could make the most of it. And at the end of the day, this film goes beyond that. This is not a pity party. It’s very much using our truth to tell a really compelling story. And the world of Wakanda has expanded, and we have this whole other world in Talocan that the audience gets to experience…it grew what one can expect from the Black Panther story.”
In Wakanda Forever, another shocking death finds the movie exploring grief from various viewpoints.
Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, becomes the film’s central character and the new Black Panther, making tough decisions with Nakia as sovereign support. In real life, Nyong’o hopes the film consoles audiences who have experienced the complexity of loss and mourning.
“I think one of the things that makes this film special is that it is art imitating life very directly. We lost Chadwick Boseman before we started making this film, and it really shaped the direction of the film. And Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole chose to lean into that. And so much like we lost Chadwick, Wakanda has lost T’Challa. And so this film is about grief and how we as human beings deal with grief in different ways,” she explained.
“The characters we know and love are all responding to death very differently. So hopefully, especially at this time when the world has gone through a lot of pain, and we are in a unique moment where consciously we have experienced the same thing with the COVID pandemic, hopefully this is a story that gives people, that people can relate to quite easily because of that, and that they are comforted by it.”
In addition to the aforementioned talent, the film stars Danai Gurira, Angela Bassett, Winston Duke, and Martin Freeman, all reprise their MCU characters for Wakanda Forever with Michaela Coel, Dominique Thorne, Mabel Cadena, and Alex Livanalli joining the MCU. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the final film to be released as part of Marvel Studio’s phase four. The film is set to open in the United States on Nov. 11, 2022.
Watch the trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever below.