The tragic, surprising passing of Chadwick Boseman has turned into one of the biggest news stories of a year filled with pretty horrible things. It’s one of those times when an actor’s passing not only hits everyone hard but also shows that no one really knew just how brave and strong the person was, compounding the sense of loss. It’s clear that Boseman’s death is going to reverberate in Hollywood and popular culture for a long time to come. And that’s not even taking into consideration the fact that he was the face of a billion-dollar franchise.
In the days since Boseman’s death and the revelation that the actor had been battling aggressive colon cancer for four years, we’ve seen friends and colleagues of the actor come out of the woodwork to commend his strength and determination. But it’s also become obvious that no one, outside of a select few, really knew what was going on with his illness. And according to a new report from THR, that secrecy not only shocked fans around the world but also surprised the people working on “Black Panther” and the forthcoming sequel film. Now, it appears that Disney/Marvel Studios find themselves scrambling to figure out what to do next.
The report claims that up until the day of his passing, Kevin Feige and the folks at Marvel Studios had no idea the extent of his illness. In fact, Boseman was also convinced that he would beat the illness and be able to get back to work as T’Challa in “Black Panther 2” by March of next year. In fact, the report says that no one involved with the “Black Panther” franchise knew the severity of what Boseman was going through and didn’t have any idea that there was the possibility he wouldn’t be around for the sequel.
So, how does Marvel move ahead? That’s the literal billion-dollar question. No one really knows, or at least, no one is coming forward with the plan, as of yet. THR says Marvel is focused on paying tribute to Boseman at this time.
Clearly, there are limited options for how “Black Panther” might continue without Boseman. That includes recasting (seems unlikely), passing the torch to an existing character (Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, has a history of taking over the mantle in the comics, for example), or even creating a new character to take over. But at this point, the most obvious next step for Marvel is to delay the 2022 anticipated release date for the sequel, as any option would likely require a lot of changes to the existing story.
Regardless, no matter if THR or any other outlet is talking about how Marvel is going to move forward, the purpose isn’t to push Boseman to the back burner and talk about the future. This just shows how integral the actor was to a massive film franchise that was only just fully beginning to spread its wings. And it also shows just how much of a cultural impact “Black Panther” (led by Boseman) had on the entire world, with the lines between fiction and reality being blurred when it comes to tributes. Everyone is mourning the death of a great, inspirational man, taken way too soon. But people are also mourning the loss of an icon. Someone that kids and adults saw as a symbol for much more than just one person. And it’s difficult to process, right now, just how “Black Panther” can exist without the smiling face of Boseman behind the mask.