Ryan Coogler Says Balancing Grief and Working on Black Panther 2 Is 'the Hardest Thing' of His Career

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Tonja Renée Stidhum
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Ryan Coogler and Chadwick Boseman pose on arrival for the European Premiere of ‘Black Panther’ on February 8, 2018.
Ryan Coogler and Chadwick Boseman pose on arrival for the European Premiere of ‘Black Panther’ on February 8, 2018.

It’s been over six months since the death of Chadwick Boseman and grieving that loss is an ongoing process for his loved ones, fans and peers. It is an especially bittersweet experience to witness the acclaimed nominations the late actor is receiving during this awards season, including his first Oscar nomination for his final onscreen performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Of course, grappling with the fact that we won’t be able to see Boseman reprise his role as T’Challa in Black Panther 2 doesn’t get easier by the day. That difficulty is certainly felt on another level by the franchise’s director, Ryan Coogler.

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“It is with a heavy heart and a sense of deep gratitude to have ever been in his presence, that I have to reckon with the fact that Chad is an ancestor now,” Coogler wrote in his heartfelt statement back in August.

On a recent episode of Spotify’s Jemele Hill Is Unbothered, Coogler joined his Judas and the Black Messiah co-producer Shaka King (who helmed the film) to discuss the now-Oscar-nominated film, and Coogler also took some time to reflect on losing Boseman.

“I’m still currently going through it,” Coogler revealed to Jemele. “One thing that I’ve learned in my short or long time on this earth is that it’s very difficult to have perspective on something while you’re going through it. This is one of the more profound things that I’ve gone through in my life, having to be a part of keeping this project going without this particular person who is like the glue who held it together.”

Coogler then went on to explain what it has been like to balance processing his personal grief and moving forward with his own life, which includes his career. As expected, it hasn’t been easy—just the opposite, in fact.

“That said, you have a professional life, you’ve got a personal life. Personal life, I’m going to say that when you work in something that you love, those things blend, they come together. I’m trying to find a work-life balance. But I’m not there yet, so this is without a question the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my professional life,” he continued.

As someone who lost her favorite auntie—and, soon after, one of my best friends during one of the busiest times of my work-life, I absolutely know how that personal/professional juggle feels—and I’m not nearly on the same level of pressure and notoriety. I would wager most of us living in a society where work takes up most of your life could relate to this in some way, so my heart definitely goes out to Coogler as he continues to navigate that balance.

It was nice to hear Coogler joke around a bit about the upcoming film toward the end of the episode as Jemele tried to get some scoop from the sequel, which we know little to nothing about in terms of details. Jemele asked whether Killmonger (portrayed by Michael B. Jordan) would be returning to the sequel in some fashion and Coogler replied jokingly with, “you’re breaking up!”, referencing that the internet or phone signal had bad reception.

Black Panther 2 is slated to be released on July 8, 2022.