Four long years after the culture-shifting debut of Black Panther, its sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, took over Hollywood on Wednesday night (Oct. 26) for its world premiere. There was one major piece missing, though, in Chadwick Boseman’s absence, as the cast and crew talked about moving forward without him.
Ryan Coogler, who returned to co-write and direct the sequel, rewrote his original premise following Boseman’s death in August 2020, noting that “the best way I got through was leaning on my collaborators.”
“Chadwick had people who were in his life creatively, as well as family, and we were in close contact with those people, very close specifically with his wife, Simone, and his creative partner Logan Coles,” Coogler — who wore a gold chain featuring Boseman’s image on the carpet — told The Hollywood Reporter of consulting the late star’s loved ones during that rewrite. “We were staying tapped in with them as much as we could, and it gave us the space to create, but obviously we were seeking out their opinion all the time. We’re looking forward to sharing it with everybody.”
The cast also came together to support each other on set, as star Danai Gurira noted that the grief particularly hit her when walking into T’Challa’s throne room, where Boseman sat in the first film. “I hadn’t seen that throne since we had lost him, so the last time I had seen that throne he had been sitting in it,” she said.
Angela Bassett, who plays T’Challa’s mother, Queen Ramonda, had to be the one to “sit on that throne and fill it. It was very daunting, it was very important. We all held it in great reverence,” she said, while also revealing that the cast visited Boseman’s resting place before they started shooting.
“We were able to do that to give love and feel his spirit and stand there with him before we did one frame of anything,” Bassett said. “That was such an important grounding for us because, as you can imagine, emotion was all over the place. People are on the verge — his [onscreen] sister, his love, his general, all of us. I’m getting goosebumps now. We were on the verge of tears, of ‘How are we going to do this, go on without him?’”
“We did with our full hearts, our full effort and really seeking to honor our brother,” Gurira added. “We can just hope and pray that it’s received that way and that people have an experience with it as a result of that.”
Another major story surrounding the film is that Rihanna will debut new music on its soundtrack, marking her first recording since 2016 with single “Lift Me Up.” Coogler said for this film they were “looking for artists who would embody it thematically,” similar to the success he had with Kendrick Lamar on the first Black Panther. Rihanna, who will be headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show next year, was at the top of the list.
“Rihanna, man, we knew she was at a point in her life as well where she was focusing on different things — focused on business, motherhood, which is a big theme in our film. We were holding out hope that maybe it could work out and boy did it for this song,” Coogler teased. “I can’t wait for people to hear it.”
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever sees the return of stars Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke, in a story of Wakanda following the death of King T’Challa and the crowning of a new Black Panther. Michaela Coel and Tenoch Huerta join as newcomers to the world, with Huerta as Marvel mutant Namor.
With a character who spends much of his time underwater, Huerta had to learn to swim for the role and has been flattered to see the internet’s (frequently thirsty) reaction to his shirtless appearance. “It feels so good. The people are giving their love and their passion,” he said. “All of them are embracing the character and are embracing all the narratives behind it.”
And while Black Panther broke box office records and made history with a best picture Oscar nomination, Bassett and husband Courtney B. Vance have some bold predictions for the sequel.
“He says the second is going to be better than the first, it’s going to be greater than the first,” Bassett said of Vance, though he hadn’t yet seen the film. “Reading the script, the attention to detail that Ryan as director and co-writer with Joe Robert Cole put into this and just trying to get it right — What is the story that we want to tell? Where do we want to go? Who is carrying this world on when your heart is destroyed? The mothers. I think they did an excellent job.”
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits theaters Nov. 11.
See some of the red carpet interviews below.
This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.