Understandably, Marvel Studios has taken some time to discern the best way to continue the story of Black Panther after Chadwick Boseman’s devastating death at 43 years old. In December, Marvel head Kevin Feige confirmed that Boseman’s role would not be recast, and in January, he said that this wouldn’t be a Star Wars-style CGI situation, either. “We’re not going to have a CG Chadwick and we’re not recasting T’Challa,” Feige told Deadline. “[Director] Ryan Coogler is working very hard right now on the script with all the respect and love and genius that he has.” But without T’Challa, fans have noted that there’s one clear way to continue his story and honor Boseman’s legacy: by passing the mantle to Shuri (Letitia Wright).
Feige went on to say that Black Panther 2, currently set for a July 8, 2022 release, will focus on “furthering the mythology and the inspiration of Wakanda.” Even before Boseman’s death, Marvel planned to use the sequel to focus in on the world of Wakanda and the supporting cast we met in the 2018 blockbuster. “There’s also the task of honoring and respecting the ongoing learnings and teachings from Chad as well,” he added.
There are several directions Black Panther 2 could go, but the movie will have big shoes to fill: Black Panther broke several box office records, including the biggest non-sequel opening weekend. Producer Nate Moore also said that he’s hoping for “many” future sequels. Centering T’Challa’s brilliant, technologically savvy half-sister would open up countless future possibilities because, in Wright’s own words, there’s so much room for her to grow.
Plus, in the original comics, she does become the Black Panther. Shuri was first introduced in a 2005 comic as T’Challa’s intelligent, ambitious younger sister who has her own dreams of becoming Wakanda's ruler. Although she ends up unable to compete for the title, she continues training and proves herself to be a skilled, fearless fighter. When T’Challa enters a coma, she temporarily takes over for him and defends Wakanda against a supervillain.
“Shuri’s young now, but when she grows into an adult, she’s kind of savage,” Wright told Variety in 2018. “She’s one of the coolest leaders in the comic books.” When asked whether Shuri could become the Black Panther in the future, she said she hadn’t discussed the possibility with Coogler, but that “it was something I feel he was playing with [trying] to set up.”
Because of Shuri’s close bond with T’Challa — and Wright’s connection with Boseman — tapping her as the new lead would also be a beautiful tribute and a natural next step. In Coogler’s heartfelt statement about Boseman’s death, he described the instant chemistry between the two actors. “He would come to auditions for supporting roles, which is not common for lead actors in big budget movies,” Coogler wrote. “In Letitia Wright’s audition for Shuri, she pierced his royal poise with her signature humor, and would bring about a smile to T’Challa’s face that was 100% Chad.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Black Panther 2 will begin filming this summer, with cast members including Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, and Angela Bassett also expected to reprise their roles. Production was originally supposed to start in March, but both the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about how to move on without Boseman reportedly slowed things down.
Next July sounds like a long way away, but Marvel has a lot of other upcoming treats to tide you over after WandaVision ends. And just this month, the studio announced that Coogler, who recently signed a five-year deal with Disney, is also developing a new Disney+ series set in Wakanda. “We're already in the mix on some projects that we can't wait to share,” he said in a statement.