The Case for Recasting T’Challa

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever releases this weekend, a movie that I wasn’t sure would get made two years ago. When news broke that Chadwick Boseman had died of cancer, the tragedy went beyond just losing a tremendous actor and, by all accounts, a beautiful person. In Captain America: Civil War, Boseman had brought to life a larger-than-life Black superhero at a time when studios were still not convinced that a Black superhero could be financially successful. It seems ridiculous now. Ryan Coogler blew up that myth to the tune of a $700 million box office with the first Black Panther film, and did so in a movie that leaned way into the Afro-futurist aspects of the mythology. By the time Boseman made his fourth appearance, in Avengers: Endgame. he had inspired countless young Black fans, who had finally been given a hero who looked more like them the white guys named Chris who had fronted most of the MCU films up to that point. It was not going too far to say, when he died, that the world had lost an important Black icon.

Understandable, then, that MCU boss Kevin Feige has insisted, over and over, anytime anyone bothers to ask him, that they are not going to recast T’Challa. How could they? Once the sequel was announced, fans debated who might take over the role from T’Challa, however they account for his death; the answer is the worst-kept secret in the MCU, but this is a spoiler-free blog, and the answer is beside the point. My argument here is that, even though their reluctance is for a good reason, they should recast him. And I believe they will.

Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther (Matt Kennedy/Marvel, via The New York Times)

The rationale for recasting is, ironically, the same as the rationale for why they shouldn’t: Boseman’s performance of the role meant too much. But that’s exactly it: The love for his performance in part demonstrates the hunger for a character like T’Challa. And while they can get away with handing the mantle off to another character, T’Challa is too important a character in Marvel Comics to allow the tragedy of Boseman’s death to rob Black audiences of the most important Black hero in their canon. They did a similar thing with Captain America, handing Chris Evans’ shield to Anthony Mackie’s Falcon. But do we really believe we’re never going to see Steve Rogers in a movie again, when we’ve had six actors lead a movie as Batman in the past thirty years?

Actually, I think they’ll recast T’Challa and Steve Rogers in the same movie. And Tony Stark. And Nick Fury, and whoever else they need to because of age or contracts:

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