Lupita Nyong’o and the late Chadwick Boseman.
Wakanda might be forever, but production for the Black Panther sequel is taking longer than expected. Black Panther‘s star-studded cast, including Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, and Chadwick Boseman, started filming the sequel Wakanda Forever in June 2020, a year racked with COVID-19-induced tragedy. When Boseman passed away on August 28 from stage-four colon cancer, Marvel fans mourned the death of the actor, and the crew readjusted the script to account for the loss. After director Ryan Coogler decided not to recast T’Challa or use a CGI rendition of his character in the sequel, many speculated that T’Challa’s tech-genius sister Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, would assume the central role. However, obstacles ranging from stunt injuries that left Wright hospitalized to COVID-19 regulations delayed the film’s release multiple times. Somehow, Daniel Kaluuya’s pseudo-spiritual leader Heir Holiness was the least of their worries. In a three-minute megatrailer distributed by Marvel last May, the studio claimed the film would be released summer 2022. Now, it’s slated for a November 11 premiere. Below, we break down the tragedies, vaccine rumors, and delays that drew out the film’s release.
Chadwick Boseman died at 43 from colon cancer at his home in Los Angeles after filming Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom spirit Then 5 Bloods in between surgeries and chemotherapy. Boseman played the role of the titular Black Panther, imbuing the character with the same sense of quiet strength that he harbored in real life. On set, Boseman urged the cast to speak in South African accents and honed in on the film’s Afrofuturist narrative by conducting setwide discussions on African spirituality. Boseman was a fan of the Black Panther comics ever since his undergraduate years at Howard University. After his death, Coogler restructured the Black Panther 2 story line to memorialize the actor.
August 15, 2020
Chicago film critic Emmanuel Noisette launched an ongoing Change.org petition urging Marvel executives to #RecastT’Challa. They iterated that although Boseman could not be replaced, “If Marvel Studios removes T’Challa, it would be at the expense of the audiences (especially Black men and boys) who saw themselves in him.” Chadwick’s brother Derrick Boseman told TMZ in December 2021 that he believes his sibling would have wanted to see T’Challa live on, even if another actor took the mantle. Despite their urging, Coogler announced in December 2021 that T’Challa would not be recast.
Shuri actor Letitia Wright retweeted a now-deleted transphobic, anti-vaxx video from YouTube channel On the Table. Wright endorsed the video with a prayer-hands emoji before responding to the ensuing backlash. “If you don’t conform to popular opinions but ask questions and think for yourself… you get cancelled,” she tweeted. On December 4, Wright wrote, “My ONLY intention of posting the video was it raised concerns with what the vaccine contains and what we are putting in our bodies.” Wright’s Marvel co-star Don Cheadle slammed the video online, calling it “hot garbage.” “I would never defend anyone posting this. but i still won’t throw her away over it,” he added.
On set for the sequel, Wright sustained minor injuries from a stunt rig that left her hospitalized in Boston. Sources said that the injuries would not affect scheduling.
Per The Hollywood ReporterWright allegedly endorsed anti-vaccine perspectives on the set of Black Panther 2. THR also wrote that Disney would roll out a sticker system in October that would indicate which crew members received the vaccination. However, the sticker system would not affect Black Panther 2, as it was already in production. The actress denied these allegations a week later on Instagram. “I honestly assert that this was completely untrue,” she wrote, alongside a photo of a suit of armor and a Bible verse.
Marvel shuts down Wakanda Forever production beginning the week of Thanksgiving. In the months following Wright’s stunt-rig injuries, Coogler was said to have shot all of the scenes not involving Shuri. Although the studio stated in August that Wright’s injuries would not affect the production schedule, the crew went on hiatus while waiting for her to recover. “Letitia has been recovering in London since September from injuries sustained on the set of Black Panther 2 and is looking forward to returning to work early 2022,” Wright’s representative told THR.
January 7, 2022
Police handcuff Ryan Coogler at an Atlanta branch of Bank of America after a teller mistook him for a bank robber. The bank teller, who is also Black, reportedly told her manager that Coogler was a robber when he handed her a withdrawal slip for $10,000 with a note asking for discretion on the back. The police verified Coogler’s identity before releasing him. “This situation should never have happened,” Coogler said in a March 9 statement, adding that Bank of America “worked with me and addressed it to my satisfaction and we have moved on.”
January 14, 2022
Omicron surges on the Atlanta set led to yet another reported delay. Nyong’o — who plays Wakanda spy Nakia — tested positive for the virus, as did several other cast and crew members. Thankfully, the delay only lasted a week. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and its elusive plot — with Michaela Coel in tow — will premiere in theaters on November 11, pending any other obstacles.
July 13, 2022
Daniel Kaluuya confirms two awards editor Jacqueline Coley that he will not reprise his role as W’Kabi in the upcoming Black Panther sequel, due to scheduling conflicts with Jordan Peele’s NOPE, which premieres July 22.
July 23, 2022
Four years after the original movie debuted, a trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is released at San Diego Comic-Con. “For us as a cast, having lost our king, Chadwick Boseman, that was a lot to process, and in many ways, we’re still processing it,” Nyong’o told The Hollywood Reporter. “When you lose someone, I don’t know when you stop missing them. And of course, we felt it so much making this film without him.” The most exciting part of the trailer? A brief glimpse we get of somebody in the Black Panther suit.
September 26, 2022
Speaking to Empire for a Black Panther: Wakanda Forever cover story, Marvel head Kevin Feige explains why his team chose not to recast T’Challa following the shocking death of Boseman. “It just felt like it was much too soon to recast,” he says. “Stan Lee always said that Marvel represents the world outside your window. And we had talked about how, as extraordinary and fantastical as our characters and stories are, there’s a relatable and human element to everything we do. The world is still processing the loss of Chad. And Ryan poured that into the story.” When deciding on what to do next, Feige says the sequel wanted to continue the legacy of Boseman and “what he had done to help Wakanda and the Black Panther become these incredible, aspirational, iconic ideas.”
So who’s taking up the mantle? A preview of the upcoming movie’s LEGO set may have accidentally revealed who will be behind the mask. The new build, titled “Shuri’s Sunbird,” features Shuri’s aircraft and a mini figure of her in what looks to be the Black Panther suit. (The potential LEGO spoiler is reminiscent of another incident earlier this summer, in which a Monopoly game revealed key plot points from Stranger Things 4.) We’ll be wondering, Is this yours
king queen? until November 11 finally rolls around.