Chadwick Boseman’s death has left his fans, colleagues, and loved ones alike all reeling. The actor was in the prime of his career, especially considering his position as one of the most beloved heroes in the Marvel franchise to date. His passing leaves Disney with a tough choice for what to do about his character T’Challa in future Black Panther movies. There’s the chance the role of T’Challa gets recast, but many fans have already expressed resistance to that option. There’s also the possibility Letitia Wright’s character Shuri becomes the new Black Panther, which could be the more favorable route, at least according to much of the fandom.
Right now, it’s too soon for there to be any decision. Studios have dealt with the passing of main stars before, such as Carrie Fisher’s death passing between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, and Paul Walker’s car crash in the middle of filming Fast & Furious 7. But while both those deaths were unexpected, neither actor was the eponymous face of the franchise. Nor were they in the position of having just come to fame in those roles.
Moreover, fans are not ready to say goodbye to Boseman. Grief over the loss of Boseman will remain fresh for a long time. He not only broke racial barriers in the entertainment industry but also became a living symbol of what’s possible. That’s not something Disney can easily recast, even if an actor were willing to take on such a challenge.
The good news is, Disney has time. The coronavirus pandemic has already created massive delays in production, so it’s not like filming needs to happen right away or anything. However, once it’s time to get back to production, there is already a solution built into the franchise — it’s just a matter of whether Marvel will embrace it.
The recent run of Black Panther comics, which the movie franchise is based on, has T’Challa’s sister Shuri inheriting her brother’s mantle when he disappears and is presumed dead. Marvel was notoriously slow out of the gate when it came to diversifying its movies, and there have been verbal commitments to rectifying that in Phase 4. But the only sign of a new Black female superhero beyond Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie is Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) in Disney+’s upcoming WandaVision. She, like Thompson, is notably a supporting character, not a lead. So, having Wright become the titular hero in a new Avengers lineup would solve that. It would honor Boseman’s commitment to making this franchise a historic piece of entertainment.
Coogler already stated he would love to tackle a woman-centric Black Panther sequel. Moreover, making Wright the Black Panther sidesteps any need for recasting for the time being, and it provides the opportunity for a potential on-screen funeral for T’Challa, so fans can have a collective moment to mourn Boseman’s loss.
All that will have to wait, though, as everyone picks up the pieces of such a shattering loss.
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