Easily one of the most anticipated films of the year, the superhero sequel ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ does more than meet expectations to follow up on box office hits and major pop culture moments.
In continuing the story of 2018’s ‘Black Panther’, the film, its cast and crew must also contend with the emotional fallout following the death of main character Chadwick Boseman, who died in 2020 of colorectal cancer.
For the new film, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), Shuri (Letitia Wright), M’Baku (Winston Duke), Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Dora Milaje (including Florence Kasumba) struggle to protect their country from interference by world powers in the wake of King T’Challa’s death.
And there are threats from below as well – below sea level, that is – as Namor Tenoch Huerta, ruler of the underwater kingdom of Talokan, who has his own reasons for invading Wakanda.
As the people of Wakanda struggle to embrace the next chapter, the heroes must unite with the help of War Dog Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) and forge a new path.
Moviefone had the opportunity to attend a press conference where Nyong’o, Wright, Huerta, director Ryan Coogler and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige spoke about the new film.
Kevin, work on the script was under way when Chadwick Boseman passed away, which meant major changes. How did the process start, and how did it change as you carried out the tasks?
Kevin Feige: In my memory, that shock turned into, “Well, you know, what are we supposed to do? What are we supposed to do? What are we supposed to do?” And I think in the near future, it’s determined that this incredible ensemble of characters and this world that has been created on screen needs to continue. Ryan puts everything and himself into everything he does and has been working for nearly a year on a film version with T’Challa in it. Dan found and poured his life experience from making the first film into it. And then when we lost Chad, all of that, obviously, then poured into this film as well. And sticking to the celebratory idea of Wakanda and its characters, despite the sadness that of course will come with it.
Ryan, this is a collaborative project. So tell us about some of the fun collaborations you came up with.
Ryan Coogler: That’s good. I think that’s one of the great things, when you do a series of films, is you can have these mini reunions. What a great time that we made our first. Now, four years have passed. It’s great to see everyone again and catch up and see how everyone is growing. We also emerged from the pandemic. We literally start the film right in the middle of it. I think everybody goes through that loneliness, you know, over the following years, that crisis. It was really nice to see some of these guys and give them another big hug.
Letitia, talk about playing a different, angrier, grieving side of Shuri in this movie?
Letitia Wright: We met him in the first movie and he was that sunshine. He was so clothed and protected in royalty and love. And proud that his brother took the step, following his father’s legacy. He just wants to be creative. I like Shuri the first because there is no limit to her. She was the one her brother had turned to for protection, his armor. He pushed it. His family pushed him to be a genius and to be faithfully and superbly made.
So, we follow from that. What does it feel like to have a broken heart? I thought it was just Ryan’s (Coogler) guide on how do we fully make this human? This young woman is going through something with her fellow family members, in general, and the people of Wakanda. I think the way it’s written and the softness, the softness of the way we approach it. We always talk, we always communicate, every step of the way. We were able to deliver something that felt real, that felt honest. I could really give my heart to it and give Shuri a full bow. Hopefully people really resonate with that and find healing, you know, with us, with that.
Lupita, you play Nakia, who seems of all the characters best coping with her grief, until she admits that she didn’t. And that’s not an easy thing to describe as an actor, is it?
Lupita Nyong’o: I remember, at first, reading the script, and I was so jealous of Letitia that she got screwed! That’s how I feel, I feel raw and, you know, want to express it. Nakia, however, she’s just a bit further along when it comes to processing it. Not that he has it all figured out, but in the first film, Ryan describes it as T’Challa’s oasis. It really resonated with me. So, as I was reading this script and thinking about where he was, I realized that once he was T’Challa, he now has a chance to offer Shuri. It makes perfect sense in terms of story structure and architecture.
How did it appear in the story?
LN: When we’re talking exploration of grief, it’s really grounding to have someone who, I think, befriends change for the people in the story, but also for the audience. The fact that she is T’Challa’s love interest, I think, it lets the audience know that it’s okay, you know? No problem. As much as I was frustrated with Ryan for doing that with Nakia, actually playing him was very therapeutic for me. You know, because I had to deal with my frustration at losing Chadwick and learn from it. Learn from the wisdom he seems to have.
Tenoch, how did he come in and play the villain here as Namor?
Tenoch Heurta: It’s kind of tricky, when you have a character like this, because you’re the antagonist. You’re going to destroy something vital, not only in the story, but the people as well. People outside. A lot of people feel an identification with Wakanda, and I put myself into that, and the narrative and representation and everything. So, now I have to play the bad guy trying to destroy that legacy! But at the same time, Ryan, in his script, he finds a way to make him human, to justify why people do those kinds of things.
They share the same scars, you know, historically. I mean, like, a representation of their culture. But at the same time, as individuals, they share those scars. How they solve problems is about their personality and their own history. So, that’s beautiful. That balance in a film. It doesn’t happen too much and it’s fun.
In underwater scenery, how much swimming experience do you have before and how much should you earn?
TH: I didn’t know how to swim before this movie! But now I can hold my breath for five minutes.
Ryan, what’s the thinking behind making Wakandan women the center of attention?
RC: Yes. Joe Robert Cole my co-author, and I, here’s what made sense to us. What we like to see is, you know, when you lose someone, there’s, like, a blast radius. You know, it’s like a bomb going off. Who is closest to him, you know? That’s what we explore.
Main characters, their identities are kind of wrapped up in this guy, you know, like, is the truth. You know, and Shuri, every day that she’s alive, she has her brother. So, when he lost her, what we found out as we worked on the script, and eventually brought it to life with the actors, is that she completely lost herself. She identified herself as this person’s younger sister. As his protector and as the one who looks after him. So when he loses it, it makes him so unmoored. It’s not about gender, directly. It was about who was most, you know, who was affected the most, you know?
‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ debuts in theaters on November 11.