We may never get a black ‘James Bond’ but Black Panther comes the closest and it is arguably more important.
Barely a week after the passing of Black Panther’s lead actor Chadwick Boseman, the inevitable debate of his replacement has come up. As consistent with the corporate world, the death of staff should not stop the hinges of the business from turning in profit. It is even more tricky for filmmakers who have to replace actors between films and seeing that Black Panther is a culturally revolutionary multibillion-dollar franchise, Marvel Studios have some big decisions to make.
A recent example will be how long it took DC Studios to cast an acceptable replacement for Gotham’s anti-hero ‘Joker’ after Heath Ledger’s critically acclaimed portrayal of the character. We might never get a black ‘James Bond’ but Black Panther comes the closest and is arguably more important.
Many people have called on Marvel Studio to follow the trajectory of the comic book and crown King T’Challa’s sister Shuri as Queen of Wakanda. This is a potential goldmine as she won’t only be the first black female superhero on the big screen, she will help continue the Chadwick Boseman’s legacy thereby immortalizing him. The big question is if she is ready. If you ask Letitia Wright who plays Shuri, she would prefer to remain T’Challa’s cheerful, geeky sister a little longer; instead of being tossed into the tempestuous demands of playing the lead character in a Marvel franchise. It is a really demanding and sometimes career restricting job, which is why most actors-especially young ones- shy away from it. But we will never know until we try.
Another approach may be to abandon the potentially finished script of Black Panther 2 and pursue other story trajectories. For example, the story of T’Challa’s father King T’Chaka and his brother N’Jobu which will give us some depth into the history and way of life in Wakanda before the time. Set in the late 1900s, it will show how advanced Wakanda many years ago and will add some aesthetic to the Marvel Studio array of films. They may even take the liberty and show us a young T’Challa, Shuri and Nakia.
The last option may be the inevitable one of recasting the lead male character. The only readily available actor that comes to mind for me is John David Washington, son of Denzel Washington who already has an impressive track record so far, like BlacKkKlansman and most recent being Christopher Nolan’s TENET. His dedication to the craft, his range and physicality can be matched by very few. As a former athlete, he does all of the mind bugging and groundbreaking stunts in TENET which is pretty incredible.
Let us not act like Marvel Studios were not privy to Boseman’s health situation as he is obligated to inform high ranking studio executives of his health status, being an important character in the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It goes without saying that they may have given this some thought.
The public will always be sceptical about any actor cast to replace Chadwick Boseman, even if they include the iconic brawl at Warrior Falls in the auditions. Marvel might as well just take the leap and see; they only have billions of dollars and an entire race of viewers hanging the balance.