There were a lot of characters that the original film had to set up. Would you like to have been even a little more present in that story?
Return to Wakanda
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Letitia Wright and Lupita Nyong’o, arrives in theaters on Nov. 11.
Absolutely, but you play your part. This is the assignment and you fill it the best you can. I can satisfy myself with what’s there. Queen Ramonda is the mother who steps back and lets her grown children do their thing. It’s the first time we were opening up this world, and of course Chadwick led the way. It had a response from audiences that was even more than what we expected. So when “Wakanda Forever” came along, due to circumstances of life, now I have this opportunity to do more.
What do you remember about working with Chadwick Boseman?
I felt really blessed that every morning we got to sit in the same makeup section — me in one seat and he in the other, and our various teams working on us. He had these ladies, one who did his hair and one who would paint that animal print on his body. And they doted on him. [Laughs.] Listen, they were unabashedly unashamed of the love they felt for him. And he accepted it with such humility and kindness. I thought many a man could not take all this adoration, adulation, and keep his cool. He’d be on the phone, talking to someone in South Africa, working on his dialect. It was like, Wow, that’s an expensive call — that’s a commitment. I’m going to save my minutes and talk to the coach we have right here.
Once you and your colleagues had the chance to mourn him, how did you feel about the idea of continuing the series without him?
I was excited about another movie that would develop the story more, because it was such a phenomenon and audiences so embraced it. We didn’t have to say “Black Lives Matter” — these lives, these images that we see, we applaud them. Look at this excellence. On so many levels, it was so encouraging. Then there was talk of, How are we going to do it without Mr. Boseman, our leader? I couldn’t see someone else attempting to step in those shoes. Maybe it’s a mother’s love, but I couldn’t buy it. There were strong arguments for going either way. But I was of the mind that if a way can be found, Ryan most definitely is the man for the job. In any other hands, there might have been some clutching of pearls, some gnashing of teeth. But with him, it’s like, in the words of the great poet Kendrick Lamar, “We gon’ be alright.”
There are two quite substantial speeches that Ramonda delivers in “Wakanda Forever” — one at the United Nations, on behalf of her country, and one at the tribal council, about herself and the family sacrifices she’s had to make. Could you tell how intense they would be just from how they were written?