How did Chadwick Boseman’s passing affect the director of ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever?’

Ryan Coogler / Chadwick Boseman
Tim P. Whitby/Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

Ryan Coogler is opening up all things Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in the first chapter of an exciting new podcast, Wakanda Forever: The Official Black Panther Podcast. A major topic of discussion in the premiere episode was Chadwick Boseman’s untimely passing, and Coogler spoke on everything from their bittersweet final conversation to the fact that the actor never read the script for Wakanda Forever.

Of course, Coogler could sense that something was changing with Boseman during their final call, but he didn’t anticipate that he’d get the news a few weeks later that his friend had passed away from cancer. In fact, that thought was the furthest thing from his mind.

So what was the journey like as Coogler dealt with a monumental loss while having just created part two for a film based around Boseman’s T’Challa? It was an emotional experience. Coming off of a movie as all-encompassing as Black Panther was a feeling they all hoped to channel for the foreseeable future.

“Your hope as an artist is if the audience can feel how important something is for you, and it was everything to us. So like, the only way it was ever going to work is that it was going to have to work big.”

Black Panther worked on an immense scale, and Wakanda Forever will undeniably pick up where the story left off, but without our hero to lead us through, things look very different. Ryan Coogler addressed Boseman’s death throughout the podcast episode, and it’s clear that his passing affected him in every possible way.

First and foremost: Coogler lost a friend

Ryan Coogler didn’t just lose his lead actor in the Black Panther realm; he lost a friend. As he spoke of their final conversation, you could tell his emotions were high. He knew something in the room had changed as Boseman was lying in bed to chat with his friend, and his fiancé was hesitant to leave his side. They’d also discussed that Boseman had recently missed a baby shower for Coogler.

The world seemingly went into a state of mourning and shock when we learned of Boseman’s passing, but that loss was felt with an intense depth by those who knew him outside of the silver screen. When Coogler speaks about his friendship with Boseman, he noticeably takes pauses and has to work through tears to keep talking about him.

Before any aspect of the project comes into place, it’s important to focus on the fact that everyone associated with Black Panther lost a friend and family member. They lost one of their own.

Boseman’s passing changed the world of Wakanda Forever

Of course, Boseman’s death also meant that the moving pieces for Wakanda Forever had to be stopped immediately and reconfigured. The film simply couldn’t move forward as Coogler had originally written it.

“The second script was a T’Challa vehicle. It was like, okay, we set the world up, now we’re going to do the deepest dive into this guy that you could imagine. That is what excited me even more because I knew Chad better as a performer, and I knew him better as a guy. I felt like I had a better attack on T’Challa as a character after making that first film, so I got into writing that thing immediately.”

The idea that Black Panther would move forward without Boseman was as foreign as any concept Coogler could have reasoned with, and rightfully so. No actor could have told T’Challa’s story with such brilliance, beauty, and heartache the way Boseman did. No one else could have stood in his shoes. Coogler had to rewrite the project, but some aspects of the movie didn’t change. The grief journey within Wakanda Forever was always there, but it was framed differently before the heart-wrenching loss of Boseman.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was destined to be a film about heartache

When Coogler initially wrote the idea for the second film, Boseman’s T’Challa was on a grief journey of his own. He was working through the loss of time, and the idea of that isn’t lost on fans. Everyone feels robbed of precious time with Boseman, and in Wakanda Forever, his character was set to toy with that idea himself.

Speaking to Inverse, Coogler revealed that even the first take of Wakanda Forever would hold a profoundly deep message about grief.

“The character was going to be grieving the loss of time, you know, coming back after being gone for five years as a man with so much responsibility to so many, coming back after a forced five-years absence, that’s what the film was tackling. He was grieving time he couldn’t get back. Grief was a big part of it.”

Of course, some casting changes happened with Boseman’s death, and pieces of the story could no longer work together. It’s a fitting nod to who he was as an actor and a person. Also in the interview, Coogler talks about Boseman’s impact on Captain America: Civil War and how he was hired to play a role in this film and, without realizing it, stole the show. He says something in passing, but it feels heavy and vital.

“What Chad was doing was protecting us before us was even a thing. He was on set advocating for what Wakanda should be.”

The Black Panther films were born, in large part due to Boseman’s impact on the MCU, the difficult conversations he had, and the situations in which he rose to the occasion long before it was required of him. That’s why moving forward without him feels so unfair and challenging. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

You can listen to the full interview with Coogler here, and you might want to have tissues on hand. It’s a true testament to the power and strength of everyone in the cast as they take a difficult journey forward without Boseman, honoring him and the world they must continue living in and fighting for in his absence.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits theaters on Nov. 11, and it will be an honor to journey to Wakanda once more. Here’s to Boseman. May his memory live on forever.