Going into Black Panther 2, fans had a number of questions about what this final Phase 4 MCU film had in store. Among them were who would be the next Black Panther and who would be the MCU's next King of Wakanda.
While the first question was clearly answered in the film, the sequel's conclusion left some fans debating about the other.
Now, days after the film's theatrical release, a member of the Wakanda Forever cast has confirmed who the nation's new ruler truly is, as well as their own thoughts on the franchise's future.
Who is Wakanda's New King in Black Panther 2?
Warning - the rest of this article contains spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
“Yeah, it’s kind of cool to be revealed as the King of Wakanda at the end of the movie. That’s huge. So whatever that entails, it’s gonna be a fun one.”
The reveal Duke refers to occurred at the ceremonial waterfall at the end of the film.
This happens to be the same waterfall from 2018's Black Panther where Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa was coronated king after defeating M'Baku in ritual combat.
The fact that Duke's M'Baku is there once again in Wakanda Forever - and Shuri is not - signifies that he now has the right to the title and the throne.
When Duke is asked to respond to a series of questions, including why he isn't the next Black Panther, the actor pointed out that the "strength of Black Panther has always been the ensemble:"
"You know, I love the support that I've gotten from the fans. I think the strength of Black Panther has always been the ensemble. You know what I mean? It's always been Black Panther's had to lean on everyone around him. Whether M'Baku's the next anything, it's still gonna be a great ensemble piece."
As to whether he would like to see the franchise continue with a third film, Duke countered, saying, he would like to see "a third, fourth, fifth, sixth film:"
"Of course, we would love to see a third, fourth, fifth, sixth film. There's so many cool things left to tell about this saga. I myself, as a fan, would love to see how everything plays out."
In regard to Shuri being revealed as the new Black Panther, Duke not only said she is "rightfully so," but that it's fitting since "it stays within the Panther Tribe and family:"
"Yeah, so the fans theories' are right. She is the new Black Panther, rightfully so. It follows the story of the comic books, and it makes a lot of sense that, you know, it stays within the Panther Tribe and family. She does an incredible job as the new Black Panther."
As to whether he wants a Black Panther spin-off, the actor is all for it, especially in terms of exploring the Jabari as their "culture is so rich, there's so much:"
"I'd love to see a spin-off for M'Baku. I said it before, and I'll say it again. The Jabari culture is so rich, there's so much. They are an entity onto themselves in the mountains. And, in the process, we did a lot of work."
That work, he went on to explain, included grounding the Jabari in "Igbo culture" and certain things he and the cast worked on in rehearsal:
"We did a lot of work to ground it in specifically Igbo culture. The small things, the grunts, like, you know, if I just make a noise my guys start responding because those are things that we, in rehearsal, started playing with. And I feel like if you got a spinoff, that we get to learn what things mean, and why, and why they're special, and dive into that culture. It would be something really special."
In addition to discussing where his character is now and where he hopes he will go, Winston Duke also talked about the auditioning process for 2018's Black Panther.
While it was "top secret" and only referred to as an "Untitled Marvel Property" at the time, Duke doubted he would get a role once he saw "all these people that I knew:"
"The Black Panther audition was one of... I would say it lasted maybe a couple months. I knew nothing about what I was auditioning for. It was top secret. It was just said to be 'Untitled Marvel Property' at the time. And I went in, and I'm seeing all these people that I knew like Sterling K. Brown, Michael Jai White. And all these like people that I said, 'Oh man, I'm not getting this.'"
He then referred to a screentest between himself and Chadwick where, after being asked to wrestle, Duke confessed that "I split my pants:"
"They said, 'Ryan Coogler would like to meet you.' And then I got in there, and it was Chadwick and myself at the screen test. And they just kept saying, 'Do more stuff,' you know. 'Can you guys wrestle?' So we wrestled, and I split my pants. My underwear was out and everything, and I was like, 'You know what? If I don't book this job, you guys gotta buy me new pants. Like for the least, you guys gotta get me some new pants.'"
Why M'Baku Should Be Wakanda's King
While some fans may struggle with idea that the new Black Panther isn't the King or Queen of Wakanda, there's precedent for it.
Captain America: Civil War established that T'Challa was Wakanda's Black Panther while his father, T'Chaka, was Wakanda's king.
On top of that history, there's a reason why candidates for king have the power of the Black Panther stripped away before they engage in ritual combat for the throne.
The message here is power and leadership are two different things; and in Black Panther 2, M'Baku's conduct illustrates that lesson beautifully.
When Shuri is willing to risk an all-out war with Namor and Talocan out of grief and vengeance, M'Baku is not.
This isn't because he doesn't relate or sympathize. But as a ruler, he knows that his people - not his wants or needs - come first.
Shuri eventually comes to understand that; and in doing so, realizes that M'Baku is the best choice to lead Wakanda now.
M'Baku becoming Wakanda's king also brings the character full circle.
He's gone from being the leader of an isolationist tribe and wanting to unseat T'Challa to uniting forces with him twice, earning a seat on the Tribal Council, and now becoming Wakanda's own king.
While Marvel fans are sure to be interested in Shuri's journey as Black Panther moving forward, Winston Duke is right in terms of how much story there's left to tell in Wakanda and with the Jabari.
With him being king, the Jabari Tribe and the rest of Wakanda are united, and their differences could make for some interesting storytelling, as is more of Shuri and M'Baku's working relationship.
Given the success of Black Panther 2 thus far, it wouldn't be surprising if audiences see more of M'Baku in the MCU in Phase 5 of the MCU.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is playing in theaters worldwide.