Before you can discuss whether to recast Black Panther, you must first acknowledge that Black Panther was more than just your usual Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. It was a cultural moment that resonated with many people. Robert Downey Jr. has gone on to call Black Panther, “the crowning achievement of the Marvel Universe.” It’s fair to say that the film and the character have earned their place in the pantheon of superhero cinema.
With the tragic passing of lead actor Chadwick Boseman, there comes an unfortunate and uncomfortable question: what will become of T’Challa and Black Panther? Is Marvel going to shelve the character or will they try to do something else with him? Could they even potentially recast Black Panther?
In this author’s opinion, there is only one option…
Put Black Panther to Rest
The death of Chadwick Boseman is awful. His amazing presence and consummate professionalism were unmatched in his field, and he brought those qualities to his performance of T’Challa in Black Panther. It’s impossible to imagine anyone else picking up the role after him. Yes, superheroes have been portrayed by countless actors who left an indelible stamp on those characters, but Boseman’s involvement was something truly special. And yes, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has seen its fair share of recasting with roles like Bruce Banner or James Rupert “Rhodey” Rhodes, but this is a very different circumstance.
As it stands, there is nobody who could fill his shoes. Even if they did, it would feel sacrilegious. Boseman not only originated the character of Black Panther on the big screen, but he also embodied the spirit and heart of the film and the character. It’s a role he took very seriously, especially when it came to how the character spoke to children.
When it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Black Panther, the character is going to be associated with Boseman for a very long time. His influence on the character will be felt for at least the next decade. The best move is for Marvel to halt any plans with the character and leave Black Panther alone. There is no way people won’t think of Boseman when Black Panther comes up. Recasting Black Panther will only call attention to this.
What Should Happen?
So, what can possibly be done with the future of Black Panther? It’s an unenviable position for Marvel to be in. The character is such a powerful one but it’s also fundamentally tied in with Chadwick Boseman. In a way, this is akin to the issue that Star Wars had to face after the passing of Carrie Fisher. However, Fisher was playing a supporting role in those films. How do you handle this problem when it’s your lead character?
If recasting Black Panther is off the table – and it should be – the series either needs to be completely shelved or totally rethought. It’s possible that Shuri, T’Challa’s sister, could step into the lead role as Black Panther. The same could be possible with the characters of M’Baku or Nakia. Handling the transition in the universe is likely the only approach the series could take. Even then, they would have to explain the absence of T’Challa and that is going to be near-impossible.
In all honesty, things are still so raw with the death of Chadwick Boseman that it’s inconceivable to think about Black Panther going forward in any capacity. Recasting T’Challa is unimaginable right now, especially if it’s going to be the MCU version of the character. If/when the Marvel Cinematic Universe gets rebooted, it’s possible that the character could find a new iteration. That’s the only way one can see Black Panther existing in a new way.
But, as of now, Black Panther needs to be retired out of respect for Chadwick Boseman. His unforgettable performance cemented the character as a pop culture icon. Putting anyone else in that role simply won’t work. Maybe the series can find a path to take after this heartbreaking loss, but it absolutely should not include recasting T’Challa. That specific role should remain a tribute to Boseman’s incredible work.
It’s going to be extremely difficult to see anyone else as the king of Wakanda. Here’s hoping that Marvel Studios does the right thing and keeps the character as Boseman in the canon of the series instead of recasting. If that means we no longer get anymore Black Panther movies before the MCU is rebooted, then so be it.