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Wakanda Forever Screenwriter Reveals The Other Characters Who Could've Been The New Black Panther

Contains spoilers for "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever"

The highly anticipated new Marvel film, "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" — the sequel to 2018's "Black Panther" — was released to theaters on November 11, 2022. Directed by Ryan Coogler (who co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Robert Cole), the film sees the residents of Wakanda grieving the death of King T'Challa (the late Chadwick Boseman) and finding themselves up against a new threat: Talokan, a civilization of underwater-dwelling people.

In the wake of Boseman's death in 2020 — the actor died of colon cancer at the age of 43 — the question arose of what would happen to "Black Panther" moving forward. Would Boseman be replaced or would another character take over the reins? Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige soon announced that they would not recast the role, leading to fans speculating which character would become the next Black Panther.

With the film out into the world, we know that it's Shuri (Letitia Wright) who takes over the role, reflecting how it plays out in the comics. However, it was no easy decision — after all, it was a big decision for Coogler and Cole to make for the sequel film. In fact, they threw around a few other names for potential Black Panther successors — here are the other characters they considered.

M'Baku and Nakia were considered to take over Black Panther

In a November 2022 interview with Rolling Stone, "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" co-screenwriter Joe Robert Cole (who also wrote the first film with director Ryan Coogler) discussed the process of writing the screenplay in the wake of Chadwick Boseman's death — or, rather, rewriting, as the duo had finished their initial first draft (which saw T'Challa facing off against Namor) in 2020 before Boseman died. And during the discussion, Cole revealed which other characters they considered making the next Black Panther before they settled on Shuri.

Cole said, "We would kick around the ideas, and try to extrapolate where the story goes and what's the most impactful choice — what's the best journey? And where do you go after the film in terms of those characters." He then named both M'Baku (Winston Duke) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) as names that they thoroughly considered as choices for Black Panther, both of whom they thought would have made for compelling narratives.

However, they found that Shuri was the most natural choice. "In the comics, Shuri is Black Panther and there's a natural organicness, I guess is the best way to say it, to her becoming Panther," Cole explained. "But you kick the tires on all sorts of ideas. And you just want to make the best decision and do what's best for the story."

Cole said that Shuri's arc ended up being the most challenging aspect of the script

In the Rolling Stone interview, Joe Robert Cole then opened up about the challenges of writing the final screenplay. He admitted that Shuri's journey, seeing as it ends in such a pivotal situation of becoming the new Black Panther, was the most challenging part.

Cole said, "In the first film she was funny and she was irreverent and her point of view was very different than where we find her in the second movie. Trying to really make that a meaningful journey and one that felt earned, knowing how we wanted the film to end [was challenging]."

The screenwriter also discussed the growth that we see in Shuri throughout the film, especially in relation to where she was in the first film. Cole explained that they realized that Shuri would be the one most impacted by T'Challa's death, which made her the one most susceptible to growth. He continued, "At the beginning of this movie, she's the smartest person in all of Wakanda and yet she can't save her brother. How does that affect someone? We started to work through that journey of where she would be, her anger, her frustration and her pouring herself into her work."

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" is now playing in theaters.