With the highly-anticipated film’s release just a week away, Vital Thrills got a chance to talk to the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever cast and crew. The sequel will open in theaters on November 11.
The Black Panther: Wakanda Forever cast members in attendance were Letitia Wright (Shuri), Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia), Danai Gurira (Okoye), Mabel Cadena (Namora), and Tenoch Huerta (Namor). In addition to the Wakanda Forever cast, we talked to director Ryan Coogler, and producers Kevin Feige and Nate Moore.
In the film, Queen Ramonda, Shuri, M’Baku, Okoye and the Dora Milaje fight to protect their nation from intervening world powers in the wake of King T’Challa’s death. When Namor, king of a hidden undersea nation, alerts them to a global threat and his disturbing plan to thwart it, the Wakandans band together with the help of War Dog Nakia and Everett Ross and forge a new path for the kingdom of Wakanda.
Director Ryan Coogler said of the reunion of the cast members from the first film, “Four years had passed. And it was just great to see everybody again and to catch up and to see how everybody had grown. See what kind of new things folks had went through. We were also coming off of a pandemic.”
Coogler added: “We actually started the film, like, right smack in the middle of it. And I think everybody experienced a sense of loneliness, you know, during the years that followed that crisis. And it was just great to see some of these folks and give ’em a big giant hug again, you know what I mean?
“And what we were all processing, it’s things that people go through, this feeling of grief and loss. But it’s also great when you don’t have to do it alone, you know? So, we were able to build that sense of community and we were able to welcome new members, with the actors that portrayed Namor and the Talokanel. So, it was awesome. It was awesome. I really feel grateful.”
Marvel President Kevin Feige said of Coogler that he “pours himself into everything” and that he worked on a movie with T’Challa, the character played by the late Chadwick Boseman, for almost a year. Feige said, “And then when we lost Chad, all of that, obviously, was then poured into this movie, as well. And keeping the idea of a celebration of Wakanda and the character at the forefront, in addition to the grief that, of course, is gonna come with that.”
Producer Nate Moore said, “I think, as storytellers, you just wanna be as honest as possible with what the characters would experience in the film after they experience the loss of T’Challa. And that is not just grief, to your point. It’s also sometimes joy, sometimes humor. It is all of the emotions anyone feels with any profound loss.”
Moore added: “But we had such a collection of talent and such a collection of characters, who all have a different point of view with that loss, that I think Ryan found ways to express all the different colors of grief through the ensemble. And that’s not just the Wakandans, by the way, who definitely feel it, but it’s the loss that Namor and the Talokan feel because of the loss of their homeland.
“So, I think Ryan was savvy enough as a filmmaker and storyteller to weave all those themes across the entirety of the film. Which is, I think, why hopefully the film will be powerful for people.”
Tenoch Huerta is the first actor to bring the character of Namor to the big screen. He said, “It is tricky, when you have a character like this, because you are the antagonist. You gonna destroy something that is viable, not just in the story, but the people, you know? The people outside. A lot of people feel identification with Wakanda, and I’m include myself in Wakanda, and the narrative and representation and everything.
“So, now I have to play the bad guy who destroy [laughs], or try to destroy that legacy. But at the same time, I think Ryan, the script, and, you know, he found a way to make it human, to justify why that people do that kind of thing.”
The actor continued: “So, it doesn’t mean that is okay or not, you know, that it’s right or not. But it explains, you know? It’s, yeah. Maybe it’s not an excuse, but it’s a reason, it’s an explanation why the things happens, you know?
“Why the people choose different reactions in front of the grief or menace, or whatever, the threats of the life. And that’s beautiful because it’s human. So, we have these two characters, taking different decisions with the grief and the threat.”
“And at the same time, they share the same wound, you know, historically. I mean, like, representation of their cultures. But at the same time, as individuals, they share that wound. And how they solve the problem is about their, their personality and their own history. So, that’s beautiful. That balance in a movie. Superhero movies, you have this balance and these layers. It’s fantastic. It doesn’t happen too much and it’s enjoyable.”
Letitia Wright, who plays Shuri, said of her character, “We all take so much different turns. And Shuri does, too. We meet her in the first film and she is that ray of sunshine. She’s so clothed and protected in royalty and love. And proud of her big brother taking the step, following on his father’s legacy. And she just wants to create. And I love Shuri in the first one because there was no limit to her, as well.
She continued: “It was like she [laughs] was the person her brother went to for his protection, his armor. And he encouraged that. Her family encouraged her to be a genius and to be faithfully and wonderfully made. So, we follow on from that. What does that look like, when your heart is broken? And I think it was just Ryan’s guidance on how do we create a full arc of this human being?
“Of this young woman going to through something alongside her fellow family members, in general, and Wakandans. And I think the way it was written and the delicacy, the gentleness of how we approached it. We always spoke, we always communicated, at every step of the way. And we were able to bring something that felt real, that felt truthful. And I was able to really give my heart to it and give Shuri a full arc.”
Lupita Nyong’o talked about War Dog Nakia’s return and her relationship to what Shuri is going through, “Yeah, I remember in the beginning, reading the script, and I was so envious of Letitia because she gets to be chaotic. [laugh] And that’s how I felt, I felt raw and wanted to express it. And Nakia, though, she is an example of someone who – she’s just a little further along in terms of her processing.
“And it’s not like she has it all figured out, but in the first film, Ryan described her as T’Challa’s oasis. And that really, really resonated with me. And so when I was reading this script and thinking about where she is, I realized that what she was once to T’Challa, she now has the opportunity to offer Shuri. And it made a lot of sense in terms of the structure and architecture of the story.
Nyong’o added: “When we’re talking about exploration of grief, it’s really grounding to have someone who is, I want to say, befriending of the change for the people in the story, but also for an audience. And the fact that she was T’Challa’s love, in a way I guess it allows an audience to know that it’s okay, you know. It’s okay.
“And as much as I was frustrated with Ryan [laugh] for doing that with Nakia, actually playing her was very therapeutic for me. You know, because it had me – I had to look beyond my frustrations with losing Chadwick, and learn from her. Yeah, learn from that wisdom that she seems to possess.”
Danai Gurira plays Okoye and spoke about the two sides of her character, strength and vulnerability. “There are two sides of me. You know, there’s the side that like gets it, and the side that’s like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, really? Do we have to? And so yeah, definitely that came out when I first heard it. And then the other side took over and understood that this was actually great.
“And I’m very thankful for the idea that these characters get to explore so many facets of their humanness. I think that that is something that is crucial, honestly, with a platform this unprecedented, is that we see all these, a kaleidoscope of their humanness and the world gets to see that.”
Mabel Cadena plays Namor’s cousin Namora and said of the experience, “We have faced a little challenge for what made this new world. Because we needed training a lot, physical, mental, because I think I needed to be, in my mind, very strong.
“And I need to learn English, Maya, because it’s amazing. We have indigenous language for the first time in a movie like this. It’s, to me, I feel proud about this challenge. What’s really hard is to learn the Maya language.
“It’s crazy, you know, and my coach says to me all the time, hey, Mabel, I want my people to be represented with dignity, this language. So you need to say it [makes noise]. It’s like, okay, okay, okay, okay. Let me try again. So yeah, we had faced a lot of challenges, but I’m very happy because yesterday, well two days ago, when I watched the movie for the first time, as a Mexican woman and Latin American woman, it’s like ‘oh my god this is amazing.’
“This movie has a lot of diversity, a lot of colors, a lot of language, and I’m very proud to be part of something like this, because it’s not just a superhero movie. And I think the first Black Panther movie and all these characters here, the legacy about that is, for me, to have the opportunity for be part of this world. And maybe, before I never thought I could be a super hero.”
Jenna Busch has written and spoken about movies, TV, video games, and comics all over the Internet for over 15 years, co-hosted a series with Stan Lee, appeared on multiple episodes of “Tabletop,” written comic books, and is a contributing author for the 13 books in the “PsychGeeks” series including “Star Wars Psychology.” She founded the site Legion of Leia and hosted the “Legion” podcast.