Winston Duke Was Meant To Be The Black Panther?

Winston Duke's M'Baku was under consideration to become Black Panther, according to writer Joe Robert Cole.

By Mark McKee | Published

winston duke black panther

Winston Duke took the world by storm as the brutish M’Baku in Black Panther opposite Chadwick Boseman‘s T’Challa. After the latter’s tragic passing, fans wondered who would take up the mantle, and according to Deadline, M’Baku almost wore the mask. Writer of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Joe Robert Cole, told Rolling Stone that along with other ideas, Winston Duke was considered to take on the role of Wakanda’s guardian. 

Cole spoke about the choice to have Shuri (Letitia Wright) follow in her older brother’s footsteps by using the comics as an example and leaning on the organic progression of the character. He also spoke about the fact that they thought about many of the characters and how they would work, extrapolating the storylines to see which would work best. In those conversations, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) was on the table, and M’Baku (Winston Duke) was also almost the next Black Panther. 

Of course, the ending of the film does give a little bit of insight into the reasons why they couldn’t be the next protector of the African kingdom. Winston Duke may have challenged Chadwick Boseman for the right to the Black Panther in the first movie and had every opportunity to take the throne for himself in the second. Still, he showed a deeper part of himself through his loyalty to Suri and Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and keeping T’Challa’s bloodline on the throne. 

For Nakia, she had less of a claim to the throne than M’Baku did, but as T’Challa’s chosen future bride and possible queen, she did have a very definite future on the throne before his death. While Boseman’s T’Challa continued to grow as a leader and a warrior, Nakia seemed happy to reach out to others in Africa and use Wakanda’s resources to help those in need. Once T’Challa passed on, Nakia had to find a new life for herself, and she chose to do so half a world away from Wakanda in Haiti. 

Joe Robert Cole talked about how the script for Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke and their roles in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever had to be rewritten after Boseman died. While Duke ended up back where he started at the beginning of the original film, in the challenging pool to claim the mantle of the guardian of Wakanda, Nakia’s storyline took her to new places entirely. The end of the film saw her back in her home of Haiti and introducing Suri to her new nephew, T’Challa’s son. 

Either Lupita Nyong’o or Winston Duke would have been fine replacements for the Black Panther role, but it isn’t hard to see the wisdom in the writer’s decision. With Suri stepping up to wear the mask, Winston Duke is free to take the throne of Wakanda and serve as a mentor for Suri as she grows to be a formidable member of the Avengers without leaving the African nation without a leader. As for Nakia, she spent her time getting Suri out of a tough spot in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever; it stands to reason that she will pop in every now and then and do it again and again while also raising the future of the nation.