T'Challa actor Chadwick Boseman's death in 2020 has left the Marvel Cinematic Universe without a Black Panther. The tragic loss of Boseman has left Marvel Studios to decide a new direction for Black Panther 2 and Wakanda's future in the MCU.
Wakanda's significance in the Marvel Comics world and the billion-dollar success of the original 2018 movie means Disney has no choice but to push forward with a new lead for the franchise.
Marvel CCO Kevin Feige has previously confirmed the studio won't recast T'Challa or use CGI to digitally resurrect the character. Instead, director Ryan Coogler and company will shift the sequel's focus to other characters and subcultures.
Back in January, Crazy Days and Nights reported that Netflix's breakout Bridgerton star Regé-Jean Page is the front-runner to play the Black Panther's new alter-ego. The site is supposedly run by a Hollywood lawyer and has a fairly reliable track record of accurate scoops about movies and actors.
Recently, further fuel was added to the fire as Netflix confirmed the actor wouldn't be returning for the second season of the popular period drama. So, will Regé-Jean Page be Marvel Studios' next Black Panther?
COULD PAGE BE THE NEXT BLACK PANTHER?
Firstly, the actor's departure from his star-making Netflix role shouldn't be taken as an instant indication he has a major role lined up at Marvel Studios or elsewhere.
Those familiar with Julia Quinn's books that Bridgerton adapts will be aware that his character of Simon Basset only appeared in the first book, meaning his arc on the show should be complete anyway. The Duke of Hastings actor recently confirmed this in an interview with Variety, saying it was always meant to be a “one-season arc.”
So, while this departure isn't a particular surprise, it was still a shock to many of the series' fans as Page's character proved to be a favorite during his brief stint on the show. Despite this not exactly being evidence that he's up for a major role, the actor's recent rise to stardom could set him up nicely to take on a leading role at Marvel Studios.
A recent article by The Hollywood Reporter on the actor's Bridgerton departure cited their sources close to the actor saying he is “laser-focused on his burgeoning film career.” After his recent stint on Netflix, it seems Page is ready to make the jump to Hollywood in larger-scale productions.
This report is clearly evidenced by his upcoming roles in Netflix's blockbuster original The Gray Man and a theatrical adaptation of the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, both of which are seemingly set for 2022 releases. These starring roles could count against the actor's chances of joining the MCU as Black Panther 2 is also set for a mid-2022 release, leaving clear conflicts with Page's existing commitments.
Hollywood has a colorism problem - for decades, movies & shows have favored casting lighter-skinned Black actors over their darker-skinned peers. Ryan Coogler has been proactive in doing his part to fix this issue, casting darker-skinned talent for nearly all of Wakanda's characters in 2018's Black Panther. So, the fact that Regé-Jean Page is lighter-skinned could actually limit his chances of being cast as a Wakandan.
If the rumors are true and Regé-Jean Page is indeed lined up to take the lead in Black Panther 2, he would be playing a new alter-ego for the Wakandan defender, not a recast T'Challa. It's unlikely Feige and Coogler would magic up a new character altogether, but would instead take another character from the comics, and place him in the suit.
A popular fan-cast for Page has been Kasper Cole, a New York City cop who has held the mantles of White Tiger and the Black Panther in his Marvel Comics tenure.
WHAT OTHER ROLES COULD PAGE TAKE UP NEXT?
Ever since the actor attracted great levels of acclaim from his role in Bridgerton he has become a bookie's favorite for a multitude of iconic roles in Hollywood. Page's departure from his Netflix role led to the odds on him taking up the coveted mantle of James Bond skyrocketed from 5/1 to 7/2, making him the second pick behind Venom's Tom Hardy.
Additionally, major British betting company Ladbrokes rates the heartthrob star at a 7/1 odds of taking up the role of the Superman in the hero's next DC outing. This is fascinating as the current Man of Steel Henry Cavill is another key contender for the role of James Bond. If the bookmakers are to believed, this makes it likely the two British actors will occupy the leading roles, whichever way around it way go.
However, being a contender for these major parts doesn't necessarily rule out his chances of joining the MCU family, with the Black Panther mantle not being the only option. As the cinematic universe continues to grow, Marvel and Disney are continually scooping uprising stars and Hollywood's most popular actors, meaning Page could very well be on Kevin Feige's radar.
With Disney's acquisition of Fox complete and the X-Men on their way to the MCU soon, that new addition has opened up plenty of roles in the universe. A magnetically charming character like Gambit would be a perfect opportunity for Page to channel his charming nature that was displayed so well in Bridgerton.
So, assuming Crazy Days and Nights' rumor is true, what are Marvel Studios' other options for Black Panther 2's new leading man or lady?
WHAT ARE MARVEL'S OTHER OPTIONS FOR BLACK PANTHER 2?
Shuri Follows in Her Brother's Footsteps
After Kevin Feige announced the upcoming sequel would shift the focus to Wakanda's other characters, most fans assumed T'Challa's genius sister Shuri would be the next protector of the African country. Shuri actress Letitia Wright was previously reported to have a more prominent role in the 2022 film, leading to speculation she would follow in her brother's footsteps and take on the mantle.
Killmonger the Black Panther
Michael B. Jordan is currently one of the hottest actors in Hollywood, having starred in the Rocky sequel franchise Creed, as well as taking up the Human Torch mantle in the 2015 Fantastic Four film. While the latter may have not exactly been the highlight of his career, his performance remains spectacular, and the best part of the critically-panned Fox epic in many fans' eyes.
The boxing blockbuster star appeared in the original Black Panther as the well-meaning villain Killmonger, who died in the fight with T'Challa in the film's climax. Jordan's star power could incline the studio to resurrect his character for a redemption arc that would end with him taking up the heroic mantle.
The actor previously said he couldn't “say too much” on a return in the sequel, indicating it isn't exactly off the table. Eric Killmonger is viewed by many as one of the MCU's best-written villains who could have a clear path to redemption if the studio was to resurrect him as the franchise's new leading man.
M'Baku Takes Up the Mantle
Another standout character in 2018's Wakandan debut was Winston Duke, who took up the role of M'Baku, leader of the Jabari tribe. While he initially challenged T'Challa for the country's throne, he went on to fight alongside him against Killmonger in the film's climax, and once again against Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame.
In Marvel Comics, the tribe leader has often held the mantle of Man-Ape, one of the greatest fighters in Wakanda, second only to the Black Panther. While he is often depicted as a villain, Black Panther seemed to imply a less-antagonistic angle to the MCU adaptation of the character, leaving him as a potential candidate for the mantle.
However, M'Baku actor Winston Duke has taken on very few lead roles in the past and has recently taken a starring role on Amazon's upcoming original series Marked Man. This would likely leave him limited time to commit to a key starring part in the MCU going forward, even if Disney did consider him to have enough star-power to carry their Oscar-nominated franchise.
Someone Totally Different
If Regé-Jean Page is in the cards to lead the Wakandan franchise going forward, that would seem to suggest Marvel isn't looking to make any major status-quo changes to their existing characters. Given Ryan Coogler had already finished the script for Black Panther 2 prior to Boseman's death, it would be much easier for him to replace T'Challa with a new character than to totally rewrite the role of someone like Shuri.
Based on the actor's newfound popularity in the industry, now seems like the perfect time for Marvel to scoop him up to lead a popular franchise. Page showed off his amazing physique in Bridgerton, meaning it wouldn't take much work to get him into heroic shape for a quick production start.
Black Panther 2 is set to release on July 8, 2022, meaning filming will likely commence this summer. Whatever the fate of the protector of Wakanda might be, fans will likely learn more about it very soon.