Letitia Wright Saw A Lot Of Herself In Shuri While Filming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

The 2019 film "Black Panther" immediately set itself apart from the rest of the pack in the Marvel Cinematic Universe upon its release, boasting an incredibly strong supporting cast to surround Chadwick Boseman's heartfelt portrayal of T'Challa and help fill out the futuristic world of Wakanda with surprising depth. Unfortunately, Boseman's tragic passing in 2020 meant that director Ryan Coogler would have to call upon that roster of talent to step up and lead the way in the star's absence. Fittingly, however, the specter of both the actor and the superhero's legacy is clearly a significant part of the upcoming sequel, "Wakanda Forever." At every turn, audiences and the cast members alike will be reminded of just how great a loss that really was.

With "Wakanda Forever" trending towards a massive opening weekend, it's clear that all eyes remain firmly fixed on how Cooger & Co. will use this blockbuster to pay homage to Boseman's memory. Chief among the film's concerns will be who takes up the mantle of Black Panther, the superpowered protector of Wakanda. Those involved have stayed mum on this point — even though the highly anticipated trailer sure seemed to implicate Letitia Wright's Shuri as the one to don the mask and suit — but certain members of the cast are at least open to talking about how their work on the film reflected their characters' own arc.

For Wright, portraying T'Challa's younger sister gave her exactly the kind of closure she needed.

'Shuri's journey has allowed me to grieve, to cry, to laugh, and to gain strength'

In an ideal world, production on "Wakanda Forever" would've been postponed indefinitely in the wake of Chadwick Boseman's death, partly to give the creative team ample time to reshape the original script to account for such a huge loss (along with the possibility of recasting the role, though the cast would disagree on that point), but mostly to allow the grieving process to unfold in its entirety. While development on the sequel was suspended in the immediate aftermath, the cast and crew quickly reconvened and ended up channeling their collective love for Boseman into the production of the sequel. Perhaps none felt this more keenly than Letitia Wright, whose character Shuri enjoyed a close relationship with T'Challa in the original film.

In an interview with Empire, the actor spoke about how her performance gave her the opportunity to come to terms with her own emotions:

"Shuri's journey has allowed me to grieve, to cry, to laugh, and to gain strength that I never thought I could ever have. Trials and tribulations make you who you are. You either fold or you get up and go again. I feel like Shuri kept looking at me every day, asking me if I was gonna fold or go again. And I just kept going until healing started to happen for me."

Does this mean Shuri will end up stepping into the role of Black Panther during the events of "Wakanda Forever," however? Wright plays coy — "That's a tricky question to answer," she responds — but does reveal that this was a conversation that Coogler, Boseman, and herself had "briefly" during filming for the first movie.

"Wakanda Forever" comes to theaters on November 11, 2022.