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    Saturday, December 03, 2022

    ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ director, stars on honoring Boseman and moving forward

    The stars of Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” found ways to keep Chadwick Boseman’s memory alive in their first movie since the actor’s death.

    The cast’s call sheet left a vacant spot atop its list of actors in a nod to Boseman’s absence. A drummer whom Boseman brought aboard for the first “Black Panther” movie returned to the set of the sequel.

    “I had a picture of [Boseman] that was taken in the last film that I framed,” Lupita Nyong’o, who returns as the spy Nakia, told the Daily News at a recent New York screening.

    “I had it in my trailer, so it was the first thing I saw before I left for work in the morning, and the last thing I saw afterwards. That was a really visual way to remind myself why we were here and what we were doing.”

    “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” arrives in theaters this week, more than two years after Boseman died at age 43 following a private battle with colon cancer. The loss rocked his co-stars, who say they didn’t know Boseman was sick when they made 2018′s original “Black Panther.”

    That first movie — starring Boseman as King T’Challa, who suits up as the superhero Black Panther to protect the fictional African nation of Wakanda — was a revelation, grossing more than $1.3 billion worldwide while providing representation through an aspirational story led by a Black director and cast.

    The sequel explores life in Wakanda without T’Challa.

    “You are definitely seeing the characters’ journey through grief,” said Danai Gurira, who reprises her role as the spear-wielding Gen. Okoye.

    “I love what [director Ryan Coogler] did to really have the cast members, our characters and the audience experience that honor and experience that journey of grief and loss that we have to go through.”

    Crafting a story without Boseman presented a challenge for the movie’s makers, including Coogler, who returned as the director and co-wrote the sequel’s script.

    Coogler never considered recasting the T’Challa role and instead found ways to pay tribute to Boseman, including with a lead single, “Lift Me Up,” that he co-wrote with Rihanna and others.

    “We made the film that we could make, and that film we could make was this one,” Coogler told The News. “We couldn’t make a film that we couldn’t be honest about or that we couldn’t be all in on.

    “We did honest work, and we gave our best. We all met Chad through working on ... this movie, and that was his attitude, to give until his cup was empty, so that’s what we did. We honored him through the work.”

    Winston Duke, who’s back as the hulking warrior M’Baku, says it “just didn’t feel right” making the film without Boseman.

    “He never used control as a means of leadership. It was always generosity. I always use the analogy of sharing my toys. I grew up sharing my toys as a kid, and now my toys are my experiences, my thoughts, things that I’ve learned along the way,” Duke told The News.

    “When I started ‘Black Panther,’ [Boseman] was my senior. He’d done more movies than me, he was more established, and he shared his toys. When the new folks came on to [the sequel] ... I said, ‘I’m gonna do what Chadwick did.’ ”

    The cast is proud of the new movie, which Duke says expands on the original’s lore by exploring “the rest of Wakanda” beyond the Black Panther. Nyong’o found the film “cathartic” to make and believes it offers “hope” through what the grieving characters are able to achieve.

    “In a few days, it’s going to be the audience’s movie,” Coogler said. “It’s going to be up to them to make it what it’s going to be and see what they see in it.”

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