On Nov. 11 the second installment of the Black Panther saga—“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” opens worldwide. The question of whether the saga would continue hung in the air for a long time after the unexpected passing of the late Chadwick Boseman, who succumbed to colon cancer in 2020.
For director and screenwriter Ryan Coogler (“Black Panther,” “Creed,” “Fruitvale Station”) the gravity of his grief was significant and he had moments when he was standing inside the swirling hurricane of doubt. The loss of Boseman meant a rethinking of how to shape the story and with a heavy heart, the director and his creative team deeply immersed themselves in reshaping the story while still honoring the character and the actor.
Enter Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía) a.k.a. “Ku’ku’lkán,”aka Feathered Serpent God—the supernatural ruler of a technologically advanced water kingdom whose name comes from the Nahuatl language and means “Precious serpent” or “Quetzal-feathered Serpent” and is part of Mexican history.
The two nations are evenly matched and despite state-of-the-art technology and hyper-vigilance, the Wakandans didn’t know anything about Namor and his kingdom. Namor is a being whose heart only beats to protect his people.
In describing Namor, Coogler says this: “He’s not interested in ruling the world for power. He’s not interested in money. He’s interested in protecting his people. And what’s more altruistic than that?”
And how can you protect an aquatic, hidden world when the greed of other top-dwelling nations are known for their appetite for war, and whose lust for absolute power is ravenous? How can Namor convince Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett ) and Shuri (Letitia Wright) to join with his people and fight their common enemies? There is a global threat and if these two powerful nations don’t see eye-to-eye they will exterminate each other which is exactly what the white race wants engaging their centuries-old plan which is to divide and conquer.
Namor first appears as Sub-Mariner in Marvel Comics #1 in 1939, and is one of Marvel’s oldest characters, acting both as hero and villain in the years to follow.
Here’s what the director and cast had to share about “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”:
RYAN COOGLER (Director)
On honoring the late Chadwick Boseman (King T’Challa)
Chad was very much our artistic partner in this project, in this franchise, and in this storytelling. I would spend time with him, just he and I, talking about where we wanted to see the character go, where we wanted to see the story go, and how much he admired the other characters and the actors that portrayed them. We realized that it would only be right for us to continue the story.
Ramonda realizes that it’s been a year since T’Challa’s passing and Shuri’s still not healing—she’s not taking steps to move forward in a healthy way. We were really excited to explore their relationship. The first film has a lot of father-son dynamics—both the protagonist and antagonist had to deal with moving on after his father passed away. This film very much became a story of motherhood…they take a retreat—stepping away from the city, from the technology—to sit with no distractions and perform what is essentially a grief ritual. That’s when Namor shows up.
TENOCH HUERTA MEJÍA (Namor, ruler of Talokan)
Namor is the ruler of Talokan, an underwater civilization who are descended from an ancient Mayan community and are hidden in the depths of the ocean.
On his Mexican heritage
I’m Mexican. I’m mixed, which means that in my heritage, I have Indigenous blood. So, for me, to be part of this world is a dream. It’s the opportunity to play a character that I hope is going to be really important in terms of representation for many, many kids all around the world—especially in Latin America, especially those who have the strongest Indigenous heritage.”
LETITIA WRIGHT (Shuri)
On moving past grief
There is a quote that one of my directors, Steve McQueen, used. He said, “Sometimes life imitates art and art imitates life.” In “Black Panther,” Shuri is so bold in her choices about science and technology, and creation. There’s a space for her to just be amazing, to make mistakes. And she has her brother and her family. She has this lack of limitation. There are no ceilings, and her brother trusts her to create his whole armor. So, we see this young woman in her element, in her light. Then, she is transformed through this experience of loss and change. It was at that moment that it hit me—when I read the script, art was imitating life. Shuri has to process grief unexpectedly. It really is a 180. It’s hard to find [the] light. It’s hard to find peace. It’s hard to wake up and say, ‘I’m going to go create today.’ Who is she creating for?
LUPITA NYONG’O (Nakia a.k.a. War Dog)
On describing Nakia
In the first film, we meet Nakia, and she is this lone wolf who returns to play the mysterious character. She’s very idealistic and independent and tenacious about sticking to her beliefs. She also has this incredible love relationship with T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman). All these years later, after the blip and “Avengers: Endgame” and the loss of T’Challa, we find a Nakia who has definitely matured. I think compromise is a word that she entertains more.
On her costume
The cool thing about my costume is that it’s beautiful in and out of the water with an uncanny quality where it never looks wet, so it actually made filming easier because I could do many takes and look dry without having to get into a new suit.
RUTH CARTER (Costume Designer)
On Nakia’s costume
She has a submersible suit that has a lot of bioluminescence to it. It has a lot of magic and a lot of tribal markings. There are a lot of South African painters who do this wonderful full body tattoo work that has tribal markings—that was one of the influences to creating her suit. Also, because of the beauty of the ocean and the bioluminescence, we wanted to keep her in green color.
On Queen Ramonda’s costume
[Angela Bassett, Queen Ramonda’s costumes] are really all based on beauty, African royalty, technology. We brought in our 3D artists to create a new crown for her that she wears at the United Nations—Ryan [Coogler] really wanted her to enter the U.N. in something very regal and a big, big presence. Purple was chosen for the U.N., and red was chosen for the palace. We have a color story going even for the white that she wears. Angela definitely empowers her costume. Of course, Angela Bassett could wear a 10-gallon hat and still make it work.”
DANAI GURIRA (Okoye, leader of the Dora Milaje)
On re-shaping Okoye
It was very exciting the way that [director Ryan Coogler] envisioned her and the idea of her being a general, the idea of the Dora Milaje as a whole, and then her specific type of energy. It just became really great to explore her.
On changing with the times
Her traditionalism was definitely something that helped me anchor her because of her connection to her country [Wakanda] was so, so passionate, and also so militaristic. The loyalty and the readiness to do whatever for her nation’s well-being, for her people’s well-being, was something that I found very organic to connect to because I grew up on the continent. I grew up in a country that had recently come out of colonization when I moved there. I understood how special a nation like Wakanda existing was—a nation that left you with that question: Who would we have been as a continent had we never been colonized?
WINSTON DUKE (M’Baku, ruler of Jabariland)
On M’Baku’s role in Wakanda
I look at M’Baku as a stress test to see if things belong. He did not disappear as a result of the snap, so he was there as the country had to deal with that loss. He was involved in the battles of “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame,” and he is transformed. He had to go through all of it, and he was essentially one of the pillars of Wakanda during that time. So, he has seen the consequences of opening the borders, the consequences of a brand-new world. He is now a full-fledged member of Wakandan society. He’s a part of the tribal council so he has a lot more responsibility and we’ll see that play out in this film.
On the future of Wakanda and M’Baku’s role in it
M’Baku puts pressure on things to make sure that they are deserving and can withstand the changes that will come in Wakanda. He pressures everything. He pressures everyone. Sometimes, it’s with humor. Sometimes, it’s antagonistic. But at the end of the day, he wants the best for Wakanda, and I think that’s a deeply honorable, powerful thing. He doesn’t mind making enemies if it means protecting his people.
ANGELA BASSETT (Queen Ramonda)
On handling grief and ruling the most powerful nation in the world
It’s been a year since the passing of her son, Shuri’s brother. And to Ramonda, tradition is important. Grieving, recognizing that grief, going through the various stages of it, that’s something that this mother understands, that this queen understands, with her husband and her son passing. She’s a woman of faith. Shuri’s a young woman of science. So, the respect for that, the recognition of that, the embracing of that is not in her wheelhouse. But a mother knows. A mother can see. I really was very interested in her unexpected aspects like her humor, and her cheekiness. I thought that this is a woman who really enjoys her life, and she loves being a Wakandan. To learn more about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever step into the official Black Panther Podcast, link here. ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ opens worldwide on November 11, 2022. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and find Marvel now on TikTok!