Art imitates life: Letitia Wrighton turning grief into strength for ‘Black Panther’ sequel | Inquirer Entertainment

Art imitates life: Letitia Wrighton turning grief into strength for ‘Black Panther’ sequel

By: - Entertainment Editor
/ 12:20 AM November 06, 2022

Wright in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

Wright in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” —PHOTOS COURTESY OF MARVEL STUDIOS

With Chadwick Boseman having succumbed to colon cancer in 2020 after a four-year battle, it’s easy to blur the fine line that separates the painful circumstances surrounding that fact from the fictional art-imitates-life tale of his character T’challa aka Black Panther. The character is the very first Black superhero first introduced to comic book fans in 1966 via Fantastic Four #52.

In “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” which opens in Philippines cinemas on Wednesday, the grieving citizens of Wakanda are up in arms against invincible forces raring to invade their sub-Saharan kingdom in the wake of King T’challa’s death.


Also figuring prominently in this story is the antihero Namor aka Sub-Mariner (Tenoch Huerta), who decides to take action “to protect his underwater community.”


Will a new superhero emerge to save the day, or will someone be bold and brave enough to take over Black Panther’s mantle in T’challa’s stead? While Black Panther Vol. 5, launched 13 years ago, did introduce a worthy successor, a superhero’s jump from page to screen is never a done deal—so we’ll just have to wait and see.

But a “daring” journalist from our recent roundtable interview with Letitia Wright, who plays T’challa’s teenage sister Shuri—dubbed by some as “the smartest person in the world, even more so than Tony Stark”—did try to get the 29-year-old Guyanese-British actress to confirm if Shuri would indeed “pick up the crime-busting cudgel” on T’challa’s behalf.

Tenoch Huerta Mejía as Namor

Tenoch Huerta Mejía as Namor

Loaded question

The said writer began by saying it was easy to see Shuri becoming the new Black Panther. Then, he asked Letitia, “How did it feel to put on the suit? What was your first reaction when you learned that you were going to be the next Black Panther?”

As quick to her feet as T’challa would have been, Letitia quipped without losing her composure, “That’s a loaded question that I don’t know how to answer … because I don’t know what you’re talking about. So, if you have another question, then I can answer the next one.”

Be that as it may, what was undeniable, even for Letitia, was how the grief of losing a colleague-cum-leader has permeated the “Wakanda Forever” set during the shoot, which was as emotionally draining (as conveyed by the trailer’s elegiac tone) as it was physically grueling—in fact, a shoulder fracture and a concussion that Letitia sustained in an action-packed scene shut the production down for about two months.

“In so many ways, Shuri and I share a parallel of emotions in this film … because we’re both dealing with something that has broken our hearts in ways that are very painful,” the actress mused. “But we see the way in which Shuri treats her emotion like an apple. She literally has to bite away at the things that is hurting her. So, she does that … and we see how grief turns into strength and how that can really be beneficial to the world.”

Letitia Wright

Letitia Wright —Reuters

While we saw Shuri as a brilliant but playful character in the first movie, she certainly had a different, albeit more mature, vibe in the trailer.

“You’ll definitely see a difference between Shuri then and Shuri at this point in her life,” Letitia admitted. “Here, we explore the ways in which she’s dealing with her emotions.

“On a larger scale, Shuri is facing things that are very challenging to her, so we see how she develops and expands from that situation. She’s trying to understand herself, and we see how everybody is trying to gather around her to support her.”

In this parallel world, women don’t play second fiddle to the men who fight their country’s battles. It also wouldn’t be wrong to share the notion that the second film manages to shine the spotlight on the bonds shared by the women of Wakanda—like Shuri, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), undercover spy Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira) and the rest of its all-female Dora Milaji force.

“Yeah, you can expect those bonds to expand even more through the challenges they face and the ways in which they allow for unity to keep them strengthened,” Letitia said.

Angela Bassett as Ramonda

Angela Bassett as Ramonda

Cultural phenomenon

The first film was a blockbuster, an Oscar nominee for best picture, and a cultural phenomenon when it came out in 2018, earning $1.3 billion worldwide on its way to becoming the highest-grossing film helmed by a Black filmmaker (Ryan Coogler).

We asked the actress if she and the rest of the production team didn’t find it daunting to live up to people’s high expectations for the sequel.

“Oh, man! I feel like the way in which we handle expectations is just by focusing on what we’re making,” Letitia told us. “We focused on the script and on the way we tell its story.

“So, when we release the art, it already belongs to the people. We just want to give viewers something that we feel is beautiful, positive and encouraging. And however the audience receives it, that’s up to you—but hopefully, it’s positive (laughs).”

Danai Gurira (left) as Okoye and Wright as Shuri

Danai Gurira (left) as Okoye and Wright as Shuri

Excerpts from our Q&A with Letitia:

What did you do to pay tribute to Chadwick on the set?

I worked really hard to honor him with all of my scenes. This time, Shuri is creating new technology, and I feel like you guys would be very excited to see the new ways in which she creates things, even though she’s nursing a broken heart. There are some cool things to truly look forward to.

On the topic of seeing Black characters in science fiction and fantasy, we’re seeing principal roles—not just supporting characters—in “Rings of Power” and “House of the Dragon.” Do you think the first “Black Panther” movie helped move the needle on that subject?

I’d like to think that “Black Panther” did open our eyes to see the richness of the African diaspora and of stories with African people at the center. It helped us realize how successful, innovative or impactful it can be, and that has definitely led to other films and projects involving Black characters to be appreciated and celebrated in ways that maybe it wouldn’t have been back in the day.

Shuri has one of the coolest outlets in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). If you could take home anything from her wardrobe, what would it be?

Winston Duke as M’Baku

Winston Duke as M’Baku

When it comes to all the characters I’ve played so far, Shuri’s swag is so impeccable! Like, she’s the apple of my eye, really (laughs). If I can steal anything from her wardrobe, I’d take the sneakers that she wore in the first “Black Panther” movie because it looks so fly. I’ll take that … and her gauntlets, too.

What kind of discussion did director Ryan Coogler give you and the other cast members before this went into production?

As our director, Ryan discussed with us how to follow our characters leading up to the filming process. We broke down what our characters’ respective journeys would be and how Wakanda expands as we take our audiences deeper into the story. It’s like discovering New York City … you dive into it and explore its many different sections and avenues.

Ironheart aka Riri Williams (played by Dominique Thorne) is said to be a gifted inventor who creates a suit of armor that rivals the one built by Tony Stark/Iron Man. What are you at liberty to tell us about her relationship with Shuri in the movie?

Ironheart is given a beautiful introduction here. Riri is innovative and smart. Her relationship with Shuri is one wherein two geniuses are shown trying to connect with each other, and the way in which they do that is very special for us to see. I love it!

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Their combined personality is so beautiful. It’s like taking a fruit, like an apple, and cutting it into half. So, when you put those halves together, it’s like the perfect combination—that’s the best analogy I can give you without giving too much of the story away.


‘Black Panther’ sequel stars on late Chadwick Boseman: ‘We made him proud’

Chadwick Boseman’s widow opens up on grief two years after his death: ‘It’s a lifelong battle’

TAGS: Black Panther, Wakanda Forever

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our entertainment news

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

© Copyright 1997-2023 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.