A History Of Black Panther 2 Moving Forward Without Chadwick Boseman And How The Movie Handles It

T'Challa at UN in Black Panther
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Black Panther was one of the most successful movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Domestically, the movie outperformed even Avengers: Infinity War at the box office, so it was essentially a forgone conclusion that we would get a Black Panther 2. At the D23 Expo in 2019, Marvel Studios confirmed the Black Panther sequel was coming, but then everything changed following the death of Chadwick Boseman.

With the loss of the first Black Panther movie's star, nobody knew quite what to expect from the sequel. Would we see T’Challa recast? If so, who could possibly take the role? And that assumed, of course, that the movie wasn’t cancelled entirely. Here’s a look at the complete story of during the lead up to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and what finally happened to T’Challa and Boseman on screen. 

Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa in Black Panther wearing the suit.

(Image credit: Marvel)

At First, It Wasn’t Clear We Would Even Get a Black Panther 2 Without Chadwick Boseman 

Work on the sequel was in its very early stages when Chadwick Boseman passed away, so it was very possible that the response to Boseman’s death would be that the movie would be scrapped entirely. Just a few weeks after the tragedy, co-star Letitia Wright was asked about making Black Panther 2 without the star, and she admitted she had a hard time imagining the movie even happening, saying:

We’re just still mourning Chad, so it’s not something I even want to think about. The thought of doing it without him is kinda strange. We’re just grieving at the moment, so it’s trying to find the light in the midst of it.

This was a sentiment held by a lot of people. Most of the comments from producers and the powers-that-be at Marvel early on very much took a 'wait and see' approach. There was plenty of time, as Black Panther 2 was still planned to be two years away.

Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa sitting on a throne in Black Panther.

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

One Decision About Black Panther 2 Was Made Early On 

However, even before there was confirmation that Black Panther 2 was moving forward, there was confirmation of one thing concerning the role of T’Challa: Marvel Studios would not use CGI to recreate Chadwick Boseman's likeness.

We’ve seen lots of favorite movie characters return to popular franchises, and appear at the correct age, thanks to the use of CGI technology, either by de-aging an actor or digitally recreating a face over another actor. While the tech certainly isn’t perfect, it’s improved a lot over the years, so the idea that a CGI T’Challa could appear, even in a limited capacity, had to  be entertained as a possibility. However, Black Panther producer Victoria Alonso made it clear in November 2020 that would not be happening:

No. There's only one Chadwick, and he's not with us. Our king, unfortunately, has died in real life, not just in fiction, and we are taking a little time to see how we return to history and what we do to honor this chapter of what has happened to us that was so unexpected , so painful, so terrible, really. Because Chadwick was not only a wonder of being human every day that we spend together the five years that we spend together, but it also seems to me that as a character what he did elevated us as a company, and has left his moment in history. I know that sometimes two months go by or three months go by in production and one says, already, it was a long time. But it is not a long time, we have to think carefully about what we are going to do, and how, and think about how we are going to honor the franchise.

It’s clear from this comment that a lot of decisions still haven’t been made. The people in charge at Marvel know they want to honor Chadwick Boseman the right way, and while they’re not entirely sure what that is, they do know what it is not. At this point, recasting the role is technically still on the table, but CGI is not.  

Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa in Black Panther

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Kevin Feige Responds To The Idea Of Recasting Chadwick Boseman 

In the MCU, the buck stops with producer Kevin Feige, so when he spoke about the future of Black Panther 2 in early 2021, people listened. Feige reiterated that CGI would not be used, but also took things a step further by confirming that Black Panther 2 was moving forward, with writer/director Ryan Coogler working on a story that would not include T’Challa as a character because he would not be recast. Feige explained:

So much of the comics and that first movie is the world of Wakanda. Wakanda is a place to further explore with characters and different subcultures. This was always and initially the primary focus of the next story. We’re not going to have a CG Chadwick and we’re not recasting T’Challa. Ryan Coogler is working very hard right now on the script with all the respect and love and genius that he has, which gives us great solace, so it was always about furthering the mythology and the inspiration of Wakanda. There’s also the task of honoring and respecting the ongoing learnings and teachings from Chad as well.

So from here we had a path forward. Feige even hinted at the general idea of what the eventually-titled Black Panther: Wakanda Forever would be about, as it was apparently always going to focus on Wakanda as a place much more than T’Challa as a character. Now this would be done out of necessity.

Chadwick Boseman and the cast of Black Panther

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Not Everybody Was Against Recasting T’Challa 

While it seemed that the decision had been made and Black Panther 2 had a plan to go forward, it has to be said that not everybody was on board with this plan. A fan petition was started asking Marvel to recast T’Challa. Even Boseman’s own family, such as his brother Derrick, believed that recasting the role was the right call. He went so far as to say that he believed Chadwick Boseman would be in favor of recasting himself.    

The general consensus among the people with this view was that the role of Black Panther is important and ultimately bigger than Chadwick Boseman. The feeling was that Black Panther needed to exist in the MCU because of what the character meant to people; who played him was far less important.

Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa suited up as Black Panther on poster

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Kevin Feige Explains Why Recasting Black Panther Was Not Considered 

So Black Panther 2 went into pre-production and was eventually titled Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. We understood what the plan was; that something would happen to T’Challa to take him out of the story and things would go forward from there. What we didn’t know yet was why this decision was ultimately made. Kevin Feige would explain things in September 2022 that because the world was clearly hit hard by the death of Chadwick Boseman, it only made sense for the movie to do the same. Feige said:

It just felt like it was much too soon to recast. Stan Lee always said that Marvel represents the world outside your window. And we had talked about how, as extraordinary and fantastical as our characters and stories are, there’s a relatable and human element to everything we do. The world is still processing the loss of Chad. And Ryan poured that into the story.

So perhaps if Black Panther 2 had been delayed and come out years later, it would have made more sense to recast T’Challa, but since the man was still being mourned, it felt like the movie needed to deal with the same things that the fans were going through. 

Winston Duke as M'Baku speaking to Ramonda

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Black Panther Co-Star Winston Duke Agrees With The Decision To Not Recast T’Challa 

For the most part, everybody involved in the production of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever seems to feel the same way as Kevin Feige. Winston Duke, who plays M’Baku in the franchise, recently said that Chadwick Boseman stood for many of the same things as the Black Panther, so it was just too hard to see anybody else play the role. 

I think for this iteration of Black Panther, it’s very hard for me to comment on something like that because I’m of the mind that this is Chadwick’s role. Chadwick created this and Black Panther wouldn’t be the same without Chadwick Boseman who stood for the things that he stood for. When you cast a person, you’re also casting their experiences, you’re casting their politics, you’re casting all these things. Black Panther was heavily defined by the actor that did it, in my opinion.

It all certainly makes sense from that perspective. If Chadwick Boseman was the right man to play Black Panther because the reality mirrored the fantasy, it only fitting for the sequel to do the same thing, including with his loss. 

A mural of T'Challa as part of his funeral procession in the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever trailer

(Image credit: Marvel/Disney)

How Chadwick Boseman, And T’Challa, Appear In Wakanda Forever 

Leading into the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the big question wasn’t what would happen to Black Panther as a mantle, the trailers showed us there would be a new person taking on the identity . The question was how would the movie handle the fact that the previous Black Panther was gone.

Wakanda Forever opens with a sequence that shows Letitia Wright’s Shuri in her lab, as she’s trying to synthesize the heart-shaped herb that was destroyed in the previous film. T’Challa isn’t mentioned by name, but it’s clear that this is an attempt to save somebody’s life. In the end, she’s unable to even try to save him, as T’Challa has died from an unnamed disease. The exact cause of his death is never specified.

From there, the movie cuts to the traditional Marvel Studios logo. Traditionally this sequence is full of scenes showing all the various characters of the MCU, but in this one, we only ever see Chadwick Boseman either as T’Challa or his actual self. The graphic package has no music at all, and it’s done in a shade of royal purple. This is followed by a funeral procession for T’Challa before the movie jumps forward a year.

We don’t see Chadwick Boseman in the movie proper until the final scene. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a story about dealing with grief, and Shuri is never able to grieve for her lost brother. In the end, she finally burns her mourning clothes, and while she sits quietly, we see what she is thinking about and images of Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa play until Shuri finally cries and the movie comes to an end.

The question of how Marvel would handle the death of Chadwick Boseman has lasted for more than two years since we lost him. Going forward, there will likely be a debate as to whether or not all the decisions that were made were the right ones. There will never be a truly definitive answer, but Marvel Studios clearly set out to honor Chadwick Boseman, and in the end, they succeeded with that. 

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.