Following Chadwick Boseman’s tragic passing in August 2020, a leading Marvel executive opened up about how Disney dealt with the shock of losing its leading man.
For many, T’Challa was more than just another Marvel hero, and the loss of Black Panther’s leading man has left a hole in the hearts of many fans.
Ultimately, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was given the difficult challenge of continuing the popular franchise while also honoring the loss of Chadwick Boseman.
Fortunately, the film succeeded, with critics praising the “outstanding” way that the movie handled themes of grief and loss and that the franchise remains one of the crowning jewels of the MCU. However, the journey to the sequel was far from easy.
Marvel producer Nate Moore now revealed how Disney reacted to the pain.
Disney’s Reaction to Chadwick Boseman Passing
In a new interview with Deadline, Nate Moore, the VP of Production & Development at Marvel Studios, opened up about the internal goings-on as Disney processed Chadwick Boseman’s death.
Moore was asked how long it took to recalibrate and responded that it was a “multi-layered” reaction that began with shock and denial at the news.
It was understandably difficult to process the loss of Chadwick Boseman, who died at 43:
“There’s like… Pardon my French, but ‘Holy shit, what happened?’ And at first… I remember, literally, I was on the treadmill, and I got the call, and I was like, ‘Wait, what happened?’ And then we get on a phone call and your mind is processing it as an idea and not as an emotional experience.”
However, Moore began to make sense of it, wondering if the actor’s fight with cancer was “why X, and Y, and Z was happening.”
It’s well known that Chadwick Boseman tried to keep his cancer diagnosis a secret, and few people knew what was going on with the actor.
The tragic death of the actor left Moore wondering if “we [should] even make this movie:”
“Then you start to think about all the, ‘Oh, maybe that’s why X, and Y, and Z was happening.’ And then you process it emotionally and go like, ‘What do we do now?’ Like, should we even make this movie?”
Moore also found it particularly challenging to cope not with “the loss of not just your star, but a friend” and wanted to avoid “just going through the motions:”
“Like, how do you respond to the loss of not just your star, but a friend that you made, for me, two movies together with, and not feel like you’re just now going through the motions?”
To the Marvel executive, recasting “never crossed [his] mind.” He said he couldn’t imagine talking to Leita Wright, Angela Basset, or any of the other members of the cast and announcing “the new T’Challa:”
“The notion of recasting never crossed my mind… I couldn’t imagine saying to Letitia [Wright], or Angela [Bassett], or Lupita [Nyong’o], ‘Hey, here’s the new T’Challa,’ ’cause we are people, you know, who have to make something we believe in and emotionally can get behind.”
Still, there were internal conversations about what to do with the franchise’s future. Moore emphasized the fact that Disney never demanded the Black Panther sequel. There was no request of “you have to make the movie, so figure it out.”
Instead, Disney pleaded that the sequel shouldn’t be made on “[their] account.” It was up to Nate Moore and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige to decide the best course:
“I’ve said this and it’s true, Disney never said, You have to make the movie, so figure it out.’ They said, ‘Well, if you don’t have to… don’t make the movie. If you guys don’t wanna make the movie, please don’t make the movie on our account.”
The pair spoke to Boseman’s widow, Simone Boseman, and concluded that “Chad would’ve wanted us to make the movie” even in light of his tragic absence.
Discussions then turned to addressing the lack of T’Challa in the next Black Panther installment and how to handle this in the realm of the narrative, as Moore described:
“And how do you narratively then… If we didn’t want T’Challa in the movie, which we didn’t, how do you narratively then address that absence in a way that felt honest?”
There was an early idea that T’Challa had been killed in an off-screen action sequence, but it was deemed “crazy,” and Marvel decided not to “fight the reality of what we all experienced as a community.”
Instead, the MCU opted to be authentic. Moore notes that having T’Challa pass away from illness “felt like the most genuine thing we could do as storytellers” and use the pain as a way to “fuel [the film] in a way that hopefully respects the reality:”
“Yeah, because that was the only way that felt authentic and we knew we had a reaction to the passing. And clearly the world did, or at least his fans did. So it felt like the most genuine thing we could do as storytellers is use that a little bit as fuel in a way that hopefully respects the reality of the situation.”
At every step of the way, Marvel “cleared everything with Simone” and wanted to ensure that it was in keeping with the wishes of Boseman’s family.
The MCU producer also noted that he wanted to allow the characters to “grieve” what the audience endured and aimed for it to be “ultimately cathartic:”
“We cleared everything with Simone at every step of the way, ’cause at no point did we wanna do something where the family said, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, don’t do that.’ But also allow the characters to grieve and experience the thing that the people experienced hopefully in a way that ultimately is cathartic.”
Why the Black Panther Sequel Was Almost Scrapped
Nate Moore was not the only one who struggled as Ryan Coogler, the director of both Black Panther films, almost abandoned the filmmaking industry altogether.
Last year, the director spoke candidly about his struggles with losing Chadwick Boseman and how he ultimately felt a great responsibility to continue.
This realization came after reflecting on his conversations with the late actor towards the end of his life.
Boseman was keen for the franchise to continue without him, and Coogler decided that it made more sense to keep going with the franchise, despite losing his leading man and friend.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will arrive on Disney+ on Wednesday, February 1.