Michael B. Jordan made a surprise return as Erik Killmonger in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and following his comeback, one of the movie’s writers explained how it happened.
Rumors had teased Jordan’s appearance in Black Panther 2 for the better part of a year, even though the iconic MCU villain met his end in the original Black Panther from 2018. And while he only had one big scene in the Phase 4 sequel, his impact was as profound as any character in the movie.
That one scene put Killmonger in the Ancestral Plane to meet Shuri after she ingested the Heart-Shaped Herb to bring the Black Panther mantle back to life. His appearance sent Shuri down quite a vengeful path after losing her mother only a short time before her superhero transformation, allowing Jordan one more moment of MCU glory post-death.
Now, with Black Panther 2 making an impressive box office run on the big screen, one of the movie’s writers expressed the joy he felt to bring Jordan back for this meaningful Phase 4 moment.
MCU Writer on Michael B. Jordan’s Return
Speaking with Rolling Stone, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever writer Joe Robert Cole discussed Michael B. Jordan’s appearance in the movie as Erik Killmonger.
Cole explained that the team “always wanted to have Michael return,” noting that it was always in the cards for the Ancestral Plane to come into play for this moment. The other big question was how it became “relevant to Shuri’s journey” and how it could give her character a moment from which to move forward:
“We always wanted to have Michael return, and I feel like it was always going to be in the ancestral plane with Shuri having taken the potion. The question was always like, how do you achieve the thing I think that you’re talking about? How do you make it more than just more than just, everyone’s excited because Michael’s amazing, and the character’s amazing? How is it relevant to Shuri’s journey and become a pivot point for her character?”
He also looked to how Killmonger’s journey in the original Black Panther “was about vengeance…and anger and frustration,” which are all the same emotions that Shuri felt immediately after losing her mother, Ramonda in the sequel. This helped build up the stakes for her transition to becoming the Black Panther, forcing her to address her own feelings following that tragic moment:
“Then if you think about it, [in the first movie] his journey was about vengeance as well, and anger and frustration. That’s a part of what we tried to lay in with her early on, the anger of losing someone, the sense of loss. And then how losing her mother would escalate her feelings of wanting vengeance. We just tried to build on that, so that he is presenting her with a choice of: Is she going to move towards the direction that Killmonger would move? Or is she going to do something different? The idea was to successfully build the stakes for her so that would resonate. So it would feel earned that she would feel that sort of [yearning for] vengeance.”
This scene also allowed a deeper look into Killmonger’s “point of view about how he changed Wakanda,” especially since the country had no relationship with the rest of the world prior to him showing up. It also ties back to when Ramonda saved Dominique Thorne’s Riri Williams/Ironheart, a moment “that might not have happened” without Killmonger’s influence:
“But one thing I also really loved about the Killmonger scene that we found was his point of view about how he changed Wakanda. Killmonger came in and spoke to the question of, Am I my brother’s keeper? And how Wakanda had not looked out for the globe. Here you have Ramonda the Queen, who is diametrically opposed — she was much more isolationist than T’Challa was — who saves RiRi, this African-American teenager. There is an argument that prior to Killmonger, that might not have happened. So were able to make that scene not only relevant to Shuri’s character, but also relevant to the nation of Wakanda.”
Killmonger Moment Pushing Shuri Forward
It’s safe to say that Shuri had no intention of coming face-to-face with Erik Killmonger in the Ancestral Plane, even though her emotional state made his presence almost an inevitability. This was yet another way fans saw her character development evolve throughout the course of Black Panther 2, all while giving Michael B. Jordan the chance to reprise one of his most iconic roles ever.
Seeing that rage and those vengeful feelings flow through Shuri helped to showcase the struggles she was dealing with after losing her brother, all while trying to lead a country that was also in mourning. And with Jordan’s villain serving to influence Shuri so heavily through that journey, his moment in the spotlight became one of the film’s highlight scenes, taking fans to a scarily low moment before Shuri rose to the occasion to save her people.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now playing in theaters worldwide.