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Disney's main priority revealed after Chadwick Boseman's tragic death

On August 28, 2020, news broke that Chadwick Boseman unexpectedly died at the age of 43. The actor — who was famous for playing T'Challa, the MCU's Black Panther and King of Wakanda — was easily one of the greatest and most influential stars of our time. Boseman passed away after a four-year-long, personal battle with colon cancer. In fact, he was fighting the disease throughout the four years he made his last seven movies – including the climactic Avengers duology Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, Spike Lee's esteemed Da 5 Bloods, the yet-to-be-released Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, and, of course, Black Panther.     

When Boseman's official Twitter account broke the tragic news, the world was in shock. The outpouring of love from the actor's fans and fellow celebrities was immediate and heartfelt. People paid their respects and fondly remembered his many great roles, as well as the way his role as T'Challa proved that representation matters. 

Apart from the vast human and cultural tragedy of Boseman's death, it also created a difficult problem for Disney and its subsidiary Marvel Studios. Black Panther is already a billion-dollar cinematic entity, and Boseman would arguably have been the most beloved and bankable star of the next few phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the actor's popularity and the character's in-universe role as an intelligent superhero with access to amazing technology, Boseman's T'Challa was essentially the current MCU's answer to former franchise lynchpin Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). 

So, how is Disney dealing with this difficult and heartbreaking situation? Disney representatives say they're not focused on figuring out what to do with Black Panther 2 — at least, not quite yet.

Disney is taking time to grieve and isn't focusing on Black Panther 2

According to The Hollywood Reporter, sources within the House of Mouse have stated that the company is "processing the grief of a loved one," and paying homage to Boseman. As such, they have no immediate plans to shift focus on the Black Panther sequel.

To say that Disney and Marvel executives are grieving and in shock is likely not an exaggeration. Boseman wanted to keep his illness as private as possible. As such, only a few people outside his family knew about his cancer diagnosis and subsequent battle at all. People like the actor's agent Michael Greene, producing partner Logan Coles, and trainer Addison Henderson were more or less in the know — as was Brian Helgeland, the director of 42, in which Boseman played baseball legend Jackie Robinson. However, his Black Panther associates weren't. In fact, the MCU at large was so deeply in the dark about Boseman's situation that the news only reached Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige's inbox on the day the Black Panther actor died.

As such, the MCU's reaction to Boseman's death was that of stunned heartbreak, followed by touching memories of their beloved co-star and friend. Robert Downey Jr. even called Boseman and his achievements the high point of the entire MCU. "Black Panther is hands down, it is the crowning achievement of the Marvel universe," the Iron Man star said. "It was the one where people got to vote with their ticket sales and say: 'We require this overdue diversity.'"

Disney is facing a difficult situation

Due to the inevitable laws of business, at some point Disney and Marvel executives will have to lift the veil of sorrow and ask themselves the difficult question: How should things go forward without Boseman? 

Disney has faced this uniquely tragic situation before, unfortunately. In 2016, the company had to figure out how to proceed with The Rise of Skywalker when the esteemed Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia, died at 60. In the same vein, Universal had to painstakingly recreate Paul Walker when the actor passed away in a car accident as shooting Fast & Furious 7 was taking place.

However, Boseman was the star of his own, incredibly successful movie — and he was a major player in the notoriously interconnected MCU in general. He hadn't shot a second of his likely many future appearances in the movie universe, and no amount of CGI and creative script retooling can or even should make up for that. With that in mind, people think that Disney likely has only a few options to choose from.

Fans are letting their thoughts be heard

While Disney could cancel Black Panther 2 and quietly write T'Challa out of the MCU, seeing as the first movie was a cultural, critical, and financial success and that Boseman's death will have to be addressed in some fashion, some believe that's an unlikely outcome. Other observers think that the company could try to replace Boseman with another actor, but that's bound to cause a massive outcry — and for good reason. It would be impossible to fill Boseman's shoes, and it's not likely that any actor would want to even attempt it, given how talented Boseman was and how luminous a legacy he leaves behind.

Knowing this, many think that a better option might be to take a page from the comic books and hand the Black Panther mantle to Shuri (Letitia Wright), T'Challa's younger sister. The tenacious and tech-savvy Shuri is a popular character, and her ascension to full Black Panther-hood is already something fans want to see in Black Panther 2. This idea has even pushed some fans to start petitioning for Disney and Marvel to tap Shuri to become the next Black Panther.

Regardless of what's going to happen, the MCU — and the world — has lost a true giant in Chadwick Boseman. As Black Panther director Ryan Coogler put it: "I spent the last year preparing, imagining and writing words for him to say, that we weren't destined to see. It leaves me broken knowing that I won't be able to watch another close-up of him in the monitor again or walk up to him and ask for another take."