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After Chadwick Boseman‘s tragic death in 2020, MCU fans wondered who would take over the Black Panther mantle for the actor in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Marvel Studios did a good job keeping it secret, but now that the film’s in theaters, the secret’s out. Letitia Wright‘s Shuri became the new Black Panther in Wakanda’s battle against Namor the Sub-Mariner in the sequel to Ryan Coogler‘s 2018 film.
READ MORE: ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ Review: ‘Black Panther’ Sequel Is Overstuffed & Yet Still Succeeds With Heart, Soul, Grit & Great Stakes
But did Coogler and his co-screenwriter Joe Robert Cole consider anyone else for becoming the new Black Panther? The Direct report that in a new interview with Rolling Stone, Cole confirmed that the film’s team “would kick around the ideas” to figure out the best fit for the mantle moving forward. Among those considered? Winston Duke‘s M’Baku and Lupita Nyong’o‘s Nakia.
“We would kick around the ideas, and try to extrapolate where the story goes and what’s the most impactful choice — what’s the best journey?” Cole told RS. “And where do you go after the film in terms of those characters. M’Baku certainly was someone that got kicked around a little bit.I think you’re correct because in the comics, Shuri is Black Panther and there’s a natural organicness, I guess is the best way to say it, to her becoming Panther. But you kick the tires on all sorts of ideas. And you just want to make the best decision and do what’s best for the story.”
In a recent conversation with Marvel, Marvel Studios VP of Production & Development Nate Moore also affirmed Shuri as the “most organic” choice to take over for T’Challa. “She just felt like the most organic storytelling choice,” Moore explained. “We had a performer that we knew could carry that if she agreed to do it. We didn’t really explore other options that thoroughly because this just felt like the right thing to do.”
And Moore said that Wright understood well the responsibility she was taking on accepting her new role. “She understood A, what it means to people generally, and B, I think what this franchise meant to Chadwick, as an artist, and as a performer,” Moore continued. “While I’m not sure that she ever envisioned herself donning the mantle and carrying this film, she was 100% game. I think that’s a credit to her and to her spirit. To come to her and say, hey, we want to continue this franchise, and we think you’re the right person to be at the center of it was a big ask. But she was game for it and has never blanched from that responsibility as a storyteller.”
In the same conversation, Coogler confirmed that moving Shuri into the Black Panther role made sense because T’Challa’s death would impact her the most. “It’s hard to say it was obvious because Chad’s passing was so unexpected, but it was a choice that made a lot of sense,” Coogler said. “As we realized what the [movie’s theme] was and when you talk about T’Challa passing, who would be the most affected by that? It became clear that Shuri should be the nexus of our movie.”
Shuri is the right call as the new Black Panther, but imagine M’Baku or Nakia donning the mantle instead. M’Baku is already one of Wakanda’s strongest warriors and would be so even more if he ingested the Heart-Shaped Herb instead of Shuri. Still, he remains in line to be the next King Of Wakanda, another estimable leadership role in the secret county. As for Nakia, her taking over as Black Panther makes sense because T’Challa is the love of her life. But she’s also busy being a mother to the young Prince T’Challa, raising someone who may become Wakanda’s future king, too. While both choices have their intrigue, Shuri remains the best fit to take over for T’Challa as Black Panther. The character’s reluctance in the film is valid, but the wisest option for Wakanda overall.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is in theaters everywhere now.