“The loss is overwhelming and by far the most personal loss ever within the MCU [Marvel Cinematic Universe],” Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige says of the death of Chadwick Boseman, the Black Panther star who in August died from colon cancer at the age of only 43.
In 2014, Feige hired Boseman — then best known for the Jackie Robinson and James Brown biopics 42 and Get On Up — to bring Wakanda leader T’Challa to the big screen in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. In 2018, the Boseman-led Black Panther not only became one of Marvel’s biggest hits and the first superhero movie to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, but a full-blown cultural phenomenon.
Now Feige and company, lead by writer-director Ryan Coogler, must figure out how to move forward with Black Panther 2, slated for 2022, without T’Challa — a character they’ve pledged neither to recast nor digitally re-create for the sequel out of respect for Boseman.
“Ryan Coogler is hard at work, and continuing that legacy is job number one for us,” Feige tells Yahoo Entertainment during an interview this weekend promoting the new Disney+ series WandaVision (watch above).
“It’s extremely challenging [to make Black Panther 2 without T’Challa], but it’s the job ahead. And it’s what Ryan is thinking about… The world of Wakanda that is now revered around the world, thanks in large part to [Boseman], deserves to live on, and that’s what Coogler is focused on.”
Some reports have speculated that Letitia Wright, who plays T’Challa’s younger sister Shuri, could have an expanded role and possibly even take over the Panther mantle, but Feige has not confirmed as much, saying only that the sequel, which goes into production in July, "will explore the world of Wakanda and the rich characters introduced in the first film."
As Feige tells us, Boseman did record audio for three episodes of the upcoming Disney+ animated MCU series What If?, so it is possible that Feige is hinting at the fact that they could potentially use new soundbites from those sessions for T’Challa’s sendoff in Black Panther 2.
“It was just a fun thing, and now of course will be his final appearance,” Feige says. “And of course he’s great, and it’s moving, even more so now.”
Boseman died after a four-year battle with cancer that he kept secret from everyone except his family and closest friends.
“Every experience with Chadwick, everyone now has to look back on with a different point of view now, knowing that he was sick,” says Feige, who also marveled over Boseman’s acclaimed performance in the new drama Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. “Every interaction I had with him was amazing. They become all the more amazing when you realize what he was personally going through.”
WandaVision premieres Friday on Disney+. Look for our full interview with Feige and cast members to come.
Watch the trailer for WandaVision:
— Video produced by Jon San and edited by John Santo
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