Chadwick Boseman and T'Challa may be gone, but the Black Panther mantle lives on as a female lead steps in the mantle in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
After Boseman tragically passed away, the MCU was left with the impossible task of continuing the impactful billion-dollar franchise without the star who laid the groundwork. At the center of that task was Black Panther director Ryan Coogler, who remained on board to create a sequel that would honor the original lead.
Following years of waiting and a hot-button debate on whether Boseman should be recast to allow T'Challa's story to continue, Black Panther 2 is about to hit theaters. Fans still have no official word on who will be the next protector of Wakanda, but the trailers and marketing have pointed to a woman being under the suit.
Compared to the last outing in the franchise, Wakanda Forever will primarily be a female-led affair as Letitia Wright's Shuri takes center stage in front of a massive ensemble. While there remain plenty of contenders, T'Challa's sister remains the favorite to become the next Black Panther, especially having previously done so in Marvel Comics.
With the wait almost over for fans to finally bask in the glory of Black Panther 2, with early reactions delivering rave reviews, the movie's director has broken his silence on replacing Boseman will a female hero.
Black Panther 2 Director Talks Replacing Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa
Speaking to Deadline, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever director Ryan Coogler commented on the decision to replace Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa with a female Wakandan hero in the sequel following his tragic passing.
Breaking his silence on the decision, Coogler revealed that the T'Challa actor was "all about pushing things forward while being aware of what took place behind him," which was a lesson that impacted the director greatly:
"It's complicated, you know. What I will say is, Chadwick was all about pushing things forward while being aware of what took place behind him. That concept is one of the things that I'll always hold in terms of lessons from him. And he was also so so so so brilliant at understanding moments and the moment he was in."
That lesson of moving forward while still recognizing the past was why Coogler "was trying to channel him" in Black Panther 2:
"So that's why I was trying to channel him in terms of going through this process, understanding that we had to keep moving forward even though we lost him in a physical sense. He was a giant man, a giant of a man, the screen couldn't contain him. To watch his movies is to only know a piece of him. We felt so fortunate to know the whole guy, and we tried to honor him on this one."
Why Black Panther 2's Female Lead Makes Sense
Marvel Studios had an impossible task in replacing Chadwick Boseman, and the route they appear to be taking may be the strongest. All signs are pointing to Shuri being the female hero in question and, as T'Challa's sister and the creator of the Black Panther suit, she makes an abundant amount of sense.
There were many popular contenders to replace the Wakandan protector including Shuri, Nakia, Okoye, M'Baku, and even Killmonger. Several of these options could have worked well, but Letitia Wright's genius makes seems to be a logical choice to serve as the lead, which ought to be of great benefit to the whole MCU going forward.
One popular Wakanda Forever theory saw Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger coming back from the dead to replace T'Challa, although that never seemed like the most practical idea. For instance, his Black Panther mission to overthrow world governments was heavily contradictory to the aftermath of his campaign in which T'Challa sought to open up Wakanda to the rest of the world and offer their resources out to others.
In the sense that Black Panther's success was ground-breaking for what it achieved for black casts in Hollywood, the sequel will take things a step further. With Queen Ramonda taking the throne and Shuri becoming the nation's protector, this will also mark another important step forward in black female representation.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits theaters on Friday, November 11.