As with many films and TV shows, the production of Black Panther: Wakanda forever was severely impacted by the pandemic. But the film which was originally scheduled for release in July 2022, has had other issues to contend with.
In August 2021, Letitia Wright who plays gifted Wakandan Princess Shuri was injured on set whilst filming a stunt. The actress received hospital care for injuries that were reported to be minor and that would have no impact on shooting schedules. However, production was shut down in November allowing time for Letitia Wright to recover from her injuries that turned out to be more serious than originally reported.
Following the sad death of Chadwick Boseman in august 2020, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige confirmed the role of T’Challa would not be recast. This led to speculation that Wright’s Shuri would take over the Black Panther mantle as she has done in the comic books. News of the month-long shutdown could be seen as a sign that Shuri has a much larger role to play in the film.
When Black Panther was released in 2018, Shuri was seen as an inspiration to many young girls, particularly those who wanted to enter the field of science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). Imagine the impact she would have on young girls if she were to become the Black Panther.
Sadly, fans who were once loyal to Wright, have been calling for her to be fired and the role of Shuri recast following claims from the Hollywood Reporter that Wright’s unvaccinated status could hold up filming further. Wright has been recovering from her injuries in London and a return to the US may be an issue due to CDC rules that require non-citizens and non-immigrant air travellers to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of such before boarding a plane.
Wright was dubbed an anti-vaxxer in 2020 when she faced backlash for sharing a controversial video questioning the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine on her Twitter page. She eventually deleted her Twitter account following the “fan feedback”.
On 4 January, actress Lupita Nyong’o who plays Nakia in the film confirmed in a tweet that she had contracted covid. “I too have tested positive for COVID-19. I’m fully vaccinated and taking care in isolation, so I trust I will be well,” she wrote. “Please do all you can to keep yourself and others protected from serious illness. #StayMaskedAndVaxxed.”
Many fans were quick to blame Letitia for this despite the fact that she isn’t on set.
With filming scheduled to start up again this month (January) and the release date set for November 2022, it will be interesting to see how the showrunners deal with Wright’s unvaccinated status.
Other Black Panther choices
The pandemic has divided the world along the lines of the vaccinated and unvaccinated. However, we may feel about entering a third year of the pandemic, Letitia Wright has the right to refuse to be vaccinated (her body, her choice and all that), even if it means losing jobs in her chosen profession. She would not be the first actor to fumble the proverbial bag. Ice Cube reportedly walked away from a $9 million payday after refusing to get vaccinated for the Sony comedy movie Oh Hell No. Other actors have been fired for refusing to get the vaccine.
Despite everything, will Shuri take over as the Black Panther after all? It’s possible that after Letitia’s 2020 debacle, the writers may have put other plans in place so that another character can take the mantle. With the passing of Chadwick Boseman, the story that Writer/Director Ryan Cooglar had in mind is already different from what was initially planned so is there a chance that with some extra filming and editing someone else could take over the mantle?
I wonder how difficult it would be for Erik Killmonger (Michael B Jordan) to be revived and take his place on the throne? Or more realistically, M’Baku (Winston Duke) who had previously challenged T’Challa for leadership of Wakanda. Better still, maybe Shuri can inherit the mantle and pass it on to Nakia or Okoye (Danai Gurira).
Or following the fan petition to recast T’Challa maybe Kein Feige will rethink his stance and recast the role to continue T’Challa’s legacy.
Regardless of the outcome, I’m still looking forward to seeing this movie.
Who would you want to see as the new Black Panther?