Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Black Panther Should Not Be Recast With Another Actor

Following Hollywood icon Chadwick Boseman's death, his fans and the entertainment industry have slowly gone from mourning to trying to imagine a future without him. Some of those discussions have included talks about his future projects, some of which, like Netflix's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, will feature posthumous performances. Others, like the scheduled Yasuke – the true story of 16th Century warrior and only known Samurai of African origin — will have to move forward carefully. 

Most glaringly positioned with the latter group is the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Black Panther. Now considered Boseman's most impactful role, T'Challa, the king of Wakanda and the man behind the Black Panther suit, made the actor a household name. All of this complicates the ability of Disney to plan a path forward for the franchise without Boseman at the helm.

Fans have been pretty vocal with their displeasure at the muted talk of replacing Boseman in the role that he created. Disney has had a similar outlook, taking a beat as it attempts to process "its grief" and focus on paying tribute to Boseman instead of plans for the Black Panther sequel, which is currently scheduled for May 2022. 

But at some point, as Hollywood gears back up to return to production, Disney and Marvel Studios will have make a difficult decision about what happens to a major franchise's star character. While the idea of replacing Boseman has been broached, there are significant arguments for why the acting legend's portrayal of the first — and currently only – Black Panther should remain a singular moment in cinema. 

Chadwick Boseman played a major role in crafting the Black Panther fans fell in love with

While Chadwick Boseman was the face of Black Panther, he was also behind key creative choices that helped craft the Marvel hero's groundbreaking legacy, proving that his relationship to T'Challa went far deeper than being just another role. 

During an interview for The Hollywood Reporter's Awards Chatter podcast back in 2018, Boseman revealed that he had pushed Marvel to ensure the King of Wakanda and the man inside the Black Panther suit used an African accent, instead of an American or British one. "It felt to me like a deal breaker," he said. "I was like, 'No, this is such an important factor that if we lose this right now, what else are we gonna throw away for the sake of making people feel comfortable? ... Once we decided to do it, we went for it."

In light of Wakanda's stability, wealth and relationship to colonialism and slavery — chiefly, that it had remained untouched by the outside world — the actor pushed back, despite Marvel's hesitations. "I said that would not be fine because if we did that, that would be saying that [Wakandans] had been colonized," he told The Los Angeles Times in 2016. 

In an emotional farewell tribute, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler also revealed that Boseman had helped shape one of Black Panther villain Killmonger's (Michael B. Jordan) most meaningful lines in terms of Black Panther's conversations about the African diaspora, the impacts of slavery, and the Black identity. 

In the line, Killmonger says, "Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, 'cause they knew death was better than bondage." After sharing that the two had frequently talked about "different ways to add depth to each scene," and things like costumes and military practices, Coogler wrote TK, "In early drafts of the script, [Erik] Killmonger's character would ask T'Challa to be buried in Wakanda. Chad challenged that and asked, 'What if Killmonger asked to be buried somewhere else?'"

Support for the beloved actor may deter other top talent from trying out

While the MCU has broken a number of box office records, it's barely made a dent when it comes to prestigious Hollywood accolades. In fact, Black Panther was not only the first comic book superhero film to be nominated in the Best Picture category at the Academy Awards, but the first film in the MCU to win an Academy Award — and it earned not one, but three. 

While the votes of a small representation of Hollywood talent aren't necessarily indicative of the MCU's success, alongside its large box office hauls, it affirms the fans' power. These same fans have spoken with one voice when it comes to the future of Black Panther in a world without Boseman. In a now-viral tweet, one fan wrote, "Don't recast that role @MarvelStudios. It's done." 

Another succinct fan stated, "Marvel can't recast Black Panther. Chadwick Boseman is irreplaceable," while another made it clear that the role and Boseman had, for some, become inextricably linked. "If I were Marvel Studios, I wouldn't dare recast T'Challa for future movies. At least for this generation of films, because Chadwick owned that role," they tweeted

Those who have weighed in the week following Boseman's shocking passing have largely shown up in support of the star not being recast. And with films whose box office successes can be tied to fan reception and expectation, the decision to replace him could put the studio in an awkward position. It may also be difficult to find someone willing to do it, as THR notes: There may be a negative reception to any actor who potentially tries to fill the role. 

There's already a built-in answer that will continue Black Panther's inclusive legacy

While some may see the role as "done," it's hard to see how after a decade of the MCU on our screens, Marvel could walk away from one of its biggest successes yet. But as the Marvel universe expands, so too can the narratives involving its biggest characters.

Following its release in 2018, Black Panther became the franchise's highest-rated film, scoring 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. In part, it did that by embracing the diversity of Marvel comics, delivering not just the cinematic universe's first Black lead hero but its first predominantly Black cast, in which Black women, especially, filled prominent roles. While the color of its cast doesn't define the Marvel film, its groundbreaking narrative and the ways in which it featured the culture, history, and humanity of the African diaspora do. 

Chadwick literally changed the face of the MCU. So what if Black Panther continued his legacy by changing the face Black Panther? Some fans have thrown out the possibility of retconning a child for T'Challa or seeing M'Baku (Winston Duketake his spot, but there's already a built-in solution thanks to the comics. When T'Challa becomes incapacitated after a battle with Namor, his in-comics wife Ororo Munroe — who fans may better recognize as the X-Men's Storm — tasks Shuri (Letitia Wright in the movies) with being her husband's successor. 

But when Shuri faces the Panther God, it initially rejects her due to her unreadiness. Shuri takes on the heroic identity anyway, becoming the Queen of Wakanda and, in the process of her own personal growth, is ultimately granted supernatural powers by the Panther God. In the comics, T'Challa returns to his post while Shuri goes on to run the Wakanda Design Group — the same role she has in the first Black Panther film. 

While the loss of Chadwick Boseman is indescribable for those who loved, worked with, and watched him, continuing to change the way Black people and Black heroes exist in major blockbusters feels, at least now, like the proper tribute to his irreplaceable time as Black Panther.