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9 Reasons Marvel Should Recast Black Panther

Black Panther (2018) is the most influential movie of the last decade. The movie grossed over $1 billion dollars at the global box office. It also set the Twitter record for the "most-tweeted-about" movie of 2018, with over five million tweets.

Black Panther is the most influential black superhero in history. The first African superhero was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. He debuted in Marvel Comics in Fantastic Four #52 in 1966. Since then he's become a fixture in superheroes of color.

Boseman played T'Challa in the Marvel Studios movies. When he passed away in 2020 the world mourned. Many asked about recasting the role. Some objected to it. I'm a long-time fan of the first African superhero. I immediately wanted Marvel to recast him. I said it then and I say it now.

The sequel is currently being filmed. It's scheduled for release on November 11, 2022 (USA). The future of Black Panther is up in the air. Here's why Marvel Studios should recast the role of Black Panther.

The Cultural Legacy of Black Panther

Boseman wasn't familiar with Black Panther before the MCU. In fact, it took someone else to introduce him to the comic book legend. While filming Gods of Egypt in 2014 he became close friends with one of the security guards. Charles Carter is a huge comic book fan. He talked with the actor about the character. 

Carter asked them to leave a comic book from his collection for Boseman. "He had them put the first issue of Black Panther in my trailer - his original issue of Black Panther from when he was a kid — and wrote a note in it that said 'You're going to get this role.'", Boseman later said. At this time Marvel hadn't developed plans to introduce Black Panther into their movies. So it was like the guard could see the future.

Boseman knew how important it was to have a prominent black superhero. "You don't know what you're missing if you haven't experienced it," Boseman told CNET. "People of African descent, most of us grew up accepting and loving Spider-Man. I still love Spider-Man. I still love the Incredible Hulk.

"I still have those characters that were white role models, superheroes, heroes -- whatever you want to call it. You basically had no choice but to accept those. You might have created other superheroes in sports or in politics, but there was never that renowned, widely accepted superhero in the same way."

He was right. The character is important. After it came out the movie transcended multiple boundaries and broke box office records. More importantly, it told a story that people of color wanted to see. The depiction of Africa, not as an impoverished nation, but as a champion of science and technology is new and fresh. The movie also tells the story of a man, a king, who takes on the power of a superhero.

It's depressing to think that Boseman's death would end Black Panther's live-action appearances. No matter how the MCU goes forward it's a loss without T'Challa. Plus, there are so many stories left to be told.

The Trauma of Boseman's Death

Chadwick Boseman's death is devastating. It felt like the loss of an icon. But it's even harder in the context of the movies. 

In his first appearance, Captain America: Civil War, [Spoiler Alert] his father dies. In Black Panther his second appearance, he [Spoiler Alert] appears to die when he's thrown off a waterfall by Killmonger. In his third appearance in Avengers: Infinity War [Spoiler Alert] he's destroyed by Thanos in "the snap". in his fourth appearance in Avengers: End Game, he [Ah forget it] comes back to life.

So audiences have watched him die twice already and grieved him along with the characters in the movies. Then we had to feel the pain of Chadwick Boseman's real-life death.

We don't need to watch him die again. We want him to live to fight another day. So why not just recast him?

Marvel Likes Recasting

Some would ask why Marvel would recast any actor. It's a good point. They haven't recast any of the major Marvel characters. When Chris Evans' contract expired they effectively retired the character of Captain America for future films. When Robert Downey Jr contract ended the character was killed off in the films. But it wasn't always that way.

Edward Norton played Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk. When there were contract disputes with him they replaced Norton with Mark Ruffalo in The Avengers. Terrence Howard played James Rhodes in Iron Man. After contract disputes (there were a lot in the early days) he was replaced by Don Cheadle in Iron Man 2. Gerard Sanders plays Howard Stark, Tony's father, in Iron Man (2008) and was replaced by John Slattery in Iron Man 2 (2010). Meanwhile, Dominic Cooper plays a young Howard in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). 

All the actors reimagined the character in their own ways. Ruffalo gave Banner a vulnerability that Norton did not. Cheadle gave a level of humor that Howard did not. Three different actors played Spider-Man in the movies. Each one brought their own style to the character.

Another actor will play T'Challa differently but that's not a bad thing. The comic book version of Black Panther is very different from Boseman's interpretation. In the comics, T'Challa is cold and duplicitous. He sometimes uses threats and violence to manipulate people. The King of Wakanda does whatever is necessary to protect his people. he threatens to carve a man's "heart like a roast".

The MCU version isn't as morally ambiguous as the comics and that's OK. Another actor can reimagine the character in ways Boseman didn't. Boseman did an astonishing job playing T'Challa. But there's still room for the character to grow.

So do what they’ve done before and find another actor to play the role. It feels like the decision was rushed without an afterthought. Why?

A Decision Based on Emotion 

Chadwick Boseman was an accomplished actor; he was a kind and wonderful man. Ryan Coogler was deeply moved by Boseman on and off-camera. They became good friends. So when his death was announced so suddenly he was deeply affected. It was probably hard to imagine guiding another actor through the performance.  

The star of 42: The Jackie Robinson Story played Black Panther with power and grace. He was immediately accepted. The king of Wakanda was once a B-Level superhero. Now he's one of the most beloved superheroes in the world. Coogler can't imagine anyone else playing the role. But is that decision based on professionalism or emotion?

Is it really impossible for anyone else to play Black Panther? Or is he just trying to avoid replacing his beloved friend? 

The commitment not to recast Black Panther wasn't a clearly thought-out move. It was made in the heat of the moment. It didn't take days or even hours.  It took minutes. Literally.

"When [Chadwick] passed, there was a real conversation we had with [director Ryan] Coogler about what do we do, and it was a fast conversation. It wasn't weeks, it was minutes of discussing how we move this franchise forward without this character because I think we all feel so much of T'Challa on the screen is tied to Chadwick Boseman." 

Black Panther is a character with a rich history and is important to millions of people around the world. The plan to get rid of the hero was made “in minutes”.

Death is hard and we all deal with it in different ways. That said, getting rid of Black Panther should have taken more time. Maybe, after thinking about it, they would have decided to kill off Black Panther. Just don't make it a snap decision. 

Black Panther is such an influential hero. Moore said that the loss of Black Panther would create a “big hole”. It’s a hole that can never be filled with another comic book character. Yes, they can make Shuri into Black Panther or some other option. But the first African superhero can never be replaced. Anything else will feel like an imitation.

Many Black Panther Stories Left to Be Told

Black Panther comics. Source: eBay

The character of Black Panther was introduced in Fantastic Four #52 back in 1966. He starred in his first self-titled solo series the next year and would go on to be featured in over 70 different series. There are almost 700 comic books with Black Panther in them.

There are a ton of comics to draw stories from. Before Boseman died, President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige told Variety "[Black Panther] has been around for more than half a century in the comic books and there are many, many stories to tell." 

It's a wasted opportunity to limit Black Panther to four movies. Especially he wasn't the main driver of the story in two of them. 

Variants Exist

It might be jarring to see T’Challa played by a different actor. How would they explain it? They wouldn’t have to. No one asked why Banner looks different. Tony didn’t wonder why his best friend suddenly looks like the guy from Hotel Rwanda. 

But if they feel like they need to explain it. There’s another option. Moore said T'Challa would not be in the "MCU [Earth-616] universe." So they've left the door open for him to return.

Avengers: Endgame and the Disney+ show Loki established that a character can look different. It depends on what universe they're in. The so-called "variants". 

Sometimes the variants look exactly the same. A couple of good examples are Captain Carter and Thor. But sometimes the variants look totally different. Loki looked like a caveman and a frog. Marvel just needs to establish that the new Black Panther is from another timeline.

With a variant, the world can mourn Boseman's Black Panther and still allow the character to live. Maybe everyone is suspicious of the variant of Black Panther and he has to prove himself. It opens a world of story possibilities. It also allows the cast, crew, and fans to mourn Chadwick Boseman and celebrate his legacy.

Fans Want Recasting

Would fans embrace a new actor as Black Panther? They've embraced all the other replacements. While fans liked Terrance Howard they like Don Cheadle too. Same with Mark Ruffalo. There are some that can't imagine anyone else playing Black Panther. But it's common to recast roles.

People have said the same thing about James Bond, Batman, Spider-Man, Spock, or Superman. Some actors become strongly connected to an actor in a role. As long as the story is good audiences usually embrace a new actor.

There's currently a petition started to recast Black Panther. It stands at just under 60,000 signatures. Thousands agree with Emmanuel "E-Man" Noisette's "call to action" statement: 
"If Marvel Studios removes T'Challa, it would be at the expense of the audiences (especially Black boys and men) who saw themselves in him. That also includes the millions of fans who were inspired by the character as well," the call to action reads. "By not recasting, it could stifle the opportunity for one of the most popular leading Black superheroes to add on to their legacy." 

This leads to my next point.

Boseman Recognized Black Panther Was Bigger Than Him

Max mourning the passing of Chadwick Boseman. Source: Instagram @mom___unlimited

After Avengers: Endgame (2019) I heard a rumor that Boseman was asking Marvel to recast him. It seemed insane. Why would he walk away from a role that he wanted and so powerfully embraced?

If the rumor is true then he recognized how important Black Panther is. Maybe the Get On Up actor realized his passing was coming fast. He loved the character and didn't want it to end with his death. 

Chadwick Boseman was very aware of the cultural impact of Black Panther. Both in the character's long history and its reflection on the modern-day challenges of racial equality. He felt it was bigger than him even at the time. "I hesitate to say this is bigger – those are real historical figures and moments," Boseman told USA Today when asked if Black Panther is bigger than his other roles. "But what this is, it's a cultural moment that is happening right now. We're not remembering breaking the color barrier or how funk was created. We're living this."

Black Panther was extremely influential on children as well as adults. The year Black Panther was released his costume was a top-seller for Halloween. Comic writer Evan Narcisse said it means "that Black Panther is as fascinating and electrifying a character to these kids as a Batman or a Spider-man."

Boseman was well aware the character should live on past his death. Unfortunately, there's no public declaration of what Chadwick would have wanted. But there's someone who has a good idea. 

Boseman's Brother Wants Black Panther Recast

Chadwick Boseman had two brothers: Kevin and Derrick. We don't know exactly how Chadwick would feel about recasting. But his brother has an idea. Late in 2021, TMZ spoke with Derrick about his brother's passing. 

Derrick said, he "does think T'Challa needs to live on in the 'Black Panther' franchise". He says he's OK with casting another actor to be the king of Wakanda.

He agreed that "there's so much power in seeing a Black king -- especially in a superhero capacity, like in the Marvel flick -- which has a HUGE impact on African-American youth. DB tells us with Marvel killing off that character so quickly in the wake of Chadwick's death, they're kinda depriving black kids of a role model."

Finally Derrick "thinks hip-hop glorifies certain social ills, and Marvel has a chance to counteract that by bringing back T'Challa -- who he sees as a symbol of Black people's potential."

Some people think it's disrespectful to recast Black Panther. His brother feels Chadwick would have wanted Marvel to recast Black Panther.

Chadwick Boseman's tragic death is a huge loss to the world of acting. But there's no reason to take Black Panther out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. T'Challa is too important to history and audiences to keep from recasting him. Some may not agree but it's the right thing to do. 

Marvel, please keep Black Panther in the movies.

About the Author
Maurice Mitchell has been a passionate science-fiction fan of movies, television, books, and comics since age five. He and his twin brother Nigel created the site "The Geek Twins" to share that passion. Maurice has written and created infographics for sites like The Geek Twins and About.com. His work has been featured on sites like Business Insider, io9 Slashfilm and more.
Read more of his posts | Follow him on Twitter @Mauricem1972 

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