Black Panther’s Winston Duke Gets Candid About The ‘Gaping Hole’ Chadwick Boseman’s Absence Created On The Wakanda Forever Set

When Marvel Studios brought a portion of its upcoming slate to San Diego Comic-Con for a splashy Hall H presentation, countless fans wondered how the late Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman would be honored in the material for the pending sequel. The trailer that was released has a mournful tone to it, and a mural of Boseman’s heroic character, T’Challa, can be seen briefly. But the trailer goes on to establish the bigger story beats that will be found in Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, including the introduction of Namor the Submariner (played by Tenoch Huerta) and a conflict between Wakanda and the Atlanteans. That doesn’t mean that Boseman’s absence wasn’t felt on the Wakanda Forever set, and Black Panther co-star Winston Duke had a lot to say to CinemaBlend about his late colleague. 

Chadwick Boseman was sick for years before finally succumbing to colon cancer in 2020. His loss left a massive hole in the film industry, and had the Black Panther franchise figuring out how to move forward without its face. We still don’t know who will be wearing the Black Panther suit when Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever reaches theaters in November, but we have a better sense of the difficulties of filming the sequel without Boseman. Winston Duke spoke with CinemaBlend during San Diego Comic-Con, and opened up about Marvel life after Boseman’s death, explaining:

The first week (on) set was really jarring. Not having Chadwick there, personally, was incredibly profound and very potent. He’s one of those people that never needed a lot of attention. So when he’s very present, he doesn’t ever take up a lot of space. But his entire gravitas had no border. You know what I mean? It was everywhere. So not to have that person there, physically, was a gaping hole, and we had a lot of grief on set, to be honest with you.

Very few franchises have lost their lead actors while the series still was thriving. Actors have been replaced, and stories have drifted off. But the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to be a behemoth, and Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther continues to be singled out as one of the best entries in the entire canon, with Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa earning the moniker of favorite MCU superhero for countless fans. The actor’s loss was tremendous, for so many reasons. He was so young. He still had so much to contribute, creatively. You could say he was just getting started, after earning industry respect for playing Jackie Robinson (42), James Brown (Get On Up) and a significant role in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods. His professional future was so bright. 

We will find out how Wakanda Forever will handle the transition to a new Black Panther in November. Watch the trailer, while you wait.

In the meantime, Marvel also revealed all of the content coming for fans in Phase 5, and gave a hint at what’s to come in Phase 6, including two Avengers movies. We expect even more to get announced at D23 in September, so stay tuned for the latest in MCU news as it happens.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.