The highly anticipated release of the new Marvel studio’s second character film, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is just days away and already getting deeply emotional reviews! Nerdophiles had the pleasure of attending the Global Press Conference featuring Ryan Coogler (Writer/ Director), Letitia Wright (“Shuri”), Lupita Nyong’o (“Nakia”), Danai Gurira (“Okoye”), Tenoch Huerta Mejia (“Namor”), Mabel Cadena (“Namora”), Alex Livinalli (“Attuma”), Kevin Feige (Producer), Nate Moore (Producer). Moderated by Rotten Tomatoes Awards Editor Jacqueline Coley, check out all of our Black Panther: Wakanda Forever scoop!
On the experience of coming back together after the first Black Panther, Coogler shared: “I think that’s one of the great things when you get to do a series of films, is that you get to have these mini-reunions, you know? And it was such an amazing time that we had, making the first one. Four years had passed and it was just great to see everybody again and to catch up and to see how everybody had grown. We were also coming off of a pandemic, and I think everybody experienced a sense of loneliness during the years that followed that crisis. “
He continued: “And it was just great to see some of these folks and give ’em a big giant hug again, you know what I mean? We were all processing 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. So, it was awesome, I feel grateful.”
On shifting the storyline after Chadwick Boseman’s untimely passing, Feige told us: “In my memory of it, it was, the shock turned into, well, you know, what do we do? What should we do? Should we do anything? And I think relatively soon, it was determined that this amazing ensemble of characters and this world that had been created onscreen needed to continue. And Ryan pours everything and all of himself into everything he does and had been working for almost a year on a version of the movie with T’Challa in it. And was finding and pouring his life experience from making the first movie into that. And then when we lost Chad, all of that 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.”
On bringing Namor to the big screen, Huerta said: “Well, yeah. First, it’s an honor to be here. But yeah it is tricky when you have a character like this because you are the antagonist. You gonna destroy something that is not just in the story, but the people, you know? A lot of people identify with Wakanda, and the narrative and representation and everything. So, now I have to play the bad guy to try to destroy that legacy. But at the same time, I think Ryan found a way to make the script more human and to justify why people do that kind of thing. So, it doesn’t mean that is okay or not, you know, that it’s right or not. But it explains, you know? People choose different reactions in the face of grief or threats to their life. And that’s beautiful because it’s human.”
On Shuri’s growth throughout the two films, Wright shared: “Yeah. It was, firstly, through connecting with Ryan, you know, that heart-to-heart conversation of how do we take a step forward? Gentle step forward, ’cause it’s so raw when we spoke. And it was just Ryan talking me through how the different characters, how the world was going to expand a bit. But also, how we were gonna grow. 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 for taking the step and following 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.”
Wright added: “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, how do 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 young woman going through something alongside her fellow family members and Wakandans. The way it was written and the delicacy, there was a gentleness in how we approached it. We always spoke, and we always communicated, every step of the way. And we were able to bring something that felt real, that felt truthful. And I was able to give my heart to it and give Shuri a full arc. And hopefully, people can resonate with that and find some healing, you know, alongside us, with it.”
On approaching Nakia’s place of serenity in this film, Nyong’o told us: “Yeah, I remember in the beginning, reading the script, and I was so envious of Letitia because she gets to be chaotic. [laughs] And that’s how I felt, I felt raw and wanted to express it. And Nakia is an example of someone who is 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 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 continued: “When we’re talking about the exploration of grief, it’s grounding to have someone who is, I want to say, befriending of the change for the people in the story, but also 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. 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. Learn from that wisdom that she seems to possess. For that, I’m grateful to you, Ryan.”
On how her vulnerability & grief mirrored Okoye’s in this film, Gurira said: “I’m very thankful for the idea that these characters get to explore so many facets of their humanness. Because it isn’t very common, you know, we don’t get to see them do that much. In direct contrast with what Lupita was going through, I felt quite displaced in the process. And I think that was connected to what my character was experiencing. The key thing anchoring me was the goal of honoring him and the way he loved excellency.”
Gurira added: “He loved to see us shine and loved to see us do our thing. And we’d go to him and say what do you think about this? And what do you think about this about my character? And he would always give us so much encouragement about doing great things. And he had such great taste. So, you know, I think that was an anchoring aspect throughout the process for me. Because, you know, I can’t share anything. But, yeah, I will say one of the key things was the displacement that I felt from her, and I felt with myself. And you know, so I had to anchor myself through comrades around me to walk through it.”
On the transformation into Namora, Cadena told us: “I had fun! We needed a lot of physical and mental training. I also needed to learn English and Mayan but it was amazing. For the first time, we have an indigenous language in a movie like this and I feel proud about stepping up to this challenge. This movie has a lot of diversity, a lot of colors, and a lot of languages, and I’m very proud to be part of something like this because it’s not just a superhero movie, you know. And I think the first Black Panther movie and all these characters here, have a rich legacy and I am glad to have the opportunity to be part of this world because before, I never thought I could be a superhero. And now, thanks to Black Panther, Ryan, Kevin, Nate, Lupita, Letitia, Danai, and Chadwick, I can see myself represented in this world and have new expectations for more career.”
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now in theaters!