The August, 2020 death of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman stunned friends and fans, who learned only then that he’d been suffering privately with terminal colon cancer. 

One of these was Boseman’s friend and Black Panther director Ryan Coogler, who tells Entertainment Weekly the unexpected tragedy shook him to the core. The 36-year-old had begun working on what would become the forthcoming sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever when he learned of Boseman’s death.

“I was at a point when I was like, ‘I’m walking away from this business,'” the filmmaker admits. “I didn’t know if I could make another movie period, [let alone] another Black Panther movie, because it hurt a lot. I was like, ‘Man, how could I open myself up to feeling like this again?'”

Coogler reconsidered after watching old footage with his fallen friend in which Boseman advocated so passionately for 2018’s Black Panther, which became not just a blockbuster, but a cultural touchstone. “I was poring over a lot of our conversations that we had, towards what I realized was the end of his life. I decided that it made more sense to keep going,” said Coogler.

With Boseman gone, and Marvel Studios determined not to recast the character, who the actor portrayed since 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, the sequel itself became a tribute.

“The movie is very much about how you move forward while dealing with a tragic loss,” explains producer Nate Moore

In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which opens November 11, the kingdom of Wakanda is mourning the death of Boseman’s King T’Challa, just as the cast and crew had to move on without their friend and leading man. 

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