Chadwick Boseman’s tragic death casts a long shadow over the story of this year’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” as the characters in the film struggle to move on from the in-universe passing of his character T’Challa. It’s a huge departure from Coogler’s initial vision for the sequel film, which would have had T’Challa alive and well — and struggling with fatherhood.
In a recent interview with The New York Times, Coogler and his co-screenwriter Ryan Coogler shared that they sent Boseman a first draft for the film that would become “Wakanda Forever” in 2020, right before the star died after a struggle with colon cancer. Coogler revealed that the story was set to focus on T’Challa as he meets his son Toussaint, who was featured in the ending scene of the eventual film, for the first time after he gets erased from reality due to the “Blip,” an event featured in the MCU film “Avengers: Infinity War.”
“It was going to be a father-son story from the perspective of a father, because the first movie had been a father-son story from the perspective of the sons,” Coogler told the Times. “In the script, T’Challa was a dad who’d had this forced five-year absence from his son’s life. The first scene was an animated sequence. You hear Nakia [Lupita Nyong’o] talking to Toussaint. She says, ‘Tell me what you know about your father.’ You realize that he doesn’t know his dad was the Black Panther. He’s never met him, and Nakia is remarried to a Haitian dude. Then, we cut to reality and it’s the night that everybody comes back from the Blip. You see T’Challa meet the kid for the first time.”
Coogler said that the idea for the storyline came as a result of the challenge of incorporating the Blip and the events of “Infinity War” and “Endgame” into the story. Coogler revealed further that the codename for the film when it was in development was “Summer Break,” and that the movie would have followed T’Challa struggling to co-parent his child with Nakia and her new husband.
“We had some crazy scenes in there for Chad, man,” Coogler said. “The movie was about a summer that the kid spends with his dad. For his eighth birthday, they do a ritual where they go out into the bush and have to live off the land. But something happens and T’Challa has to go save the world with his son on his hip. That was the movie.”
Although the core of the film Coogler envisioned was far different than the end product, the basic conflict seen in the movie, with Wakanda fighting the Talokan king Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía), was also in the first draft. However, CIA director Valentina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) was a far bigger presence in the original story, essentially acting as the second main villain with Namor.
“It was basically a three-way conflict between Wakanda, the U.S. and Talokan,” Coogler said. “But it was all mostly from the child’s perspective.”