Thousands of fans are petitioning Marvel Studios to recast the role of Wakanda’s King T’Challa to honor the late actor Chadwick Boseman, who powerfully brought the character to life in several movies, including the 2018 film “Black Panther.”
Marvel announced in late 2020 that the character would be retired.
The “portrayal of T’Challa” by Boseman, who died of cancer in August 2020 at the age of 43, is “iconic and transcends any iteration of the character in any other medium from Marvel’s past,” the company said in a statement at the time ― meaning no other actor would portray the character in any future stories set in the mega-successful Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But many fans desperately want T’Challa to remain part of the setting, in order to preserve the role of a heroic Black leader — and to honor a mesmerizing Black actor.
Chicago film critic and lifelong Marvel fan Emmanuel Noisette launched a petition in April to keep the character alive. It now has 50,000 signatures and counting.
“Recast T’Challa to honor Chadwick Boseman in the Black Panther Franchise,” the petition reads. “If Marvel Studios removes T’Challa, it would be at the expense of the audiences (especially Black boys and men) who saw themselves in him. That includes the millions of fans who were inspired by the character as well.”
The first time Noisette encountered the Black Panther in a Marvel comic, he said he finally realized what “representation should feel like,” he told the Los Angeles Times.
“It was the first time I could see myself as a superhero that looked just like me,” he told the Times, adding that “it was weird” as a Black kid to dress up as a traditionally white character like Superman. “But seeing yourself in someone like Black Panther … ‘This is what it feels like? This is awesome.’”
T’Challa was the “epitome of positive Black representation,” Noisette told HuffPost. “We’re asking Marvel to eventually recast the character to allow Chadwick Boseman to hopefully be the first of many” T’Challas to follow.
The actor’s brother Derrick Boseman told TMZ last month that he believes Chadwick hoped T’Challa would go on.
The TMZ story notes:
Derrick tells us he believes his sibling would’ve wanted with this too ― explaining Chadwick thought T’Challa was bigger than just himself as one guy. Frankly, Derrick says Chadwick knew the power of the character, and the positive influence it carries.
Derrick says there’s so much power in seeing a Black king ― especially in a superhero capacity, like in the Marvel flick ― which has a HUGE impact on African-American youth. DB tells us with Marvel killing off that character so quickly in the wake of Chadwick’s death, they’re kinda depriving black kids of a role model.
Marvel has not yet responded to Noisette’s petition.
Disney has already started production on a “Black Panther” sequel, and many observers believe T’Challa’s younger sister Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, will become the next Black Panther in the film.
Noisette has said a T’Challa recast doesn’t have to happen immediately, and that it wouldn’t preclude others from becoming a “Black Panther” star.
“This is about the role of T’Challa,” he told the LA Times. “T’Challa is significant and deserves to have his stories continue to be told, regardless of whoever else wears” the Black Panther mantle, he said.