How Marvel Chose the New Black Panther in Wakanda Forever

Warning: this story contains Black Panther: Wakanda Forever spoilers. The king is dead. Long live the Black Panther. One year after Wakanda's King T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) dies from an undisclosed illness, his sister, Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright), works to recreate the Heart-Shaped Herb that grants the Black Panther their powers. Using a missing ingredient from Namor's (Tenoch Huerta) Vibranium-rich underwater kingdom of Talokan, Shuri successfully synthesizes the artificial herb to bring back Wakanda's protector. One Wakandan marvels at the sight of the black-and-gold-suited superhero: "The Black Panther lives!" It's Shuri, continuing her family's legacy by donning the mantle adopted by her brother and father before her.

But Wakanda is home to many warriors, including Dora Milaje General Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Jabari Tribe leader M'Baku (Winston Duke), and is the homeland of War Dog Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o). The Wakanda Forever creative team discussed which character might adopt the mantle after the death of T'Challa actor Chadwick Boseman, but according to producer Nate Moore, that would have felt "artificial." 

"[Shuri] just felt like the most organic storytelling choice," Moore told In Wright, "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."

Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler revealed original Black Panther 2 plans saw King T'Challa grieving the five-year loss of time after blipping back to life in Avengers: Endgame. But when Boseman died from cancer in 2020, Marvel decided against recasting the actor. That meant finding a way to move forward with a new Black Panther. 

"Letitia wanted and wants to do right by this franchise," Moore said of the 29-year-old Black Panther star. "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." 

"While I'm not sure that she ever envisioned herself donning the mantle and carrying this film, she was 100% game," he continued. "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."

While Okoye, M'Baku, and Nakia were all worthy candidates for taking over as the new Black Panther, Coogler believed it made sense for the mantle to go to Shuri. The science and technology-minded inventor initially resists, but after another devastating loss, Shuri chooses to honor her family — and her country — as Wakanda's returned protector, the Black Panther.

"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. As we realized what the [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," Coogler explained. "She always imagined, my brother will be the Black Panther and then when he's too old to be a Black Panther, I'll be too old to be a Black Panther. It's never something that was on her mind to have to do. We thought that would [make her] the most interesting character to actually do it." 

Marvel Studios' Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now playing in theaters.