Black Panther was such an important moment for Black people. It wasn’t just about the representation of having a Black hero in the biggest film franchise in the world, it was a celebration of us, our excellence, our community and our family. T’Challa, Shuri, Okoye, M’Baku and Ramonda weren’t just characters, they were friends and family we spent time hanging out with.
When Chadwick Boseman passed away in August 2020 after privately battling colon cancer, we felt that loss so deeply because it wasn’t just about losing our favorite actor or hero, it felt like we might also lose this amazing world we were finally given.
Per Entertainment Weekly, ahead of the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, writer/director Ryan Coogler explained how close we came to that reality, as his grief was so heavy that he almost had to leave the universe he created.
“I was at a point when I was like, ‘I’m walking away from this business,’” Coogler said. “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?’”
“The movie is very much about how you move forward while dealing with a tragic loss,” producer Nate Moore said. “All of the characters, both old and new, are dealing with how loss can affect your actions in ways that are emotional and surprising.”
For Coogler and his cast, as hard as it was to return to Wakanda without their co-star and friend, reuniting also gave them a chance to mourn together. While also leading his cast and crew into the next phase of the MCU, the director had to keep everyone’s spirits lifted and not allow the set to get too heavy.
“One of my favorite refrains of [Ryan’s] while we were filming was, ‘We’re making a big movie!’” Lupita Nyong’o, who plays Nakia, said. “He said it to pump us up when the day was getting long and arduous. If you know Ryan, you know he is a very modest human being, so it would tickle us to hear him say that. We would echo it all around the set to get refocused and re-energized.”
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was not an easy production. In addition to Boseman’s passing, the team also had to deal with COVID-19 delays and an on-set injury to star Letitia Wright. The adversity drew the cast and crew closer together and led the Black Mirror actress to find strength in herself.
“It was an unfortunate situation that set me back a bit, but in that time I surrounded myself with family and friends,” Wright said. “Ryan, he was incredibly supportive. And it was a moment for me to gain courage that I never had before and I didn’t know I had. You know when you go through situations, you’re like, ‘I didn’t know I had this much strength in me until I went through it?’ That was my experience. I got the healing that I needed, and I went back on set, and I was determined to not let that limit me. I felt like, ‘Oh my goodness, what if I can’t do the things that I’m used to doing?’ But by God’s grace, I made it through, and I came back stronger.”
Starring Wright, Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Martin Freeman, Florence Kasumba, Michaela Coel, Dominique Thorne, Tenoch Huerta and Angela Bassett, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will hit theaters Nov. 11.