Black Panther Wakanda Forever: Lupita Nyong’o said her ‘world shattered when Chadwick Boseman died’

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When Chadwick Boseman died in 2020, the world mourned his loss.

Boseman’s death at age 43 from colon cancer, a battle he kept private, came as a shock for those who loved him, whether they knew him directly or not.

Because for even those who only glimpsed him on a screen or in an interview, Boseman had grace and decency that oozed from every pore.

As Marvel character T’Challa, Boseman was a champion to legions of kids (and adults) who felt the empowering impact of his performance as a Black superhero. As his own person, Boseman fuelled his compassion into his art, imbuing his characters with humanity.

For his Black Panther co-stars, they lost family.

“When he died, my world shattered for a while,” Black Panther actor Lupita Nyong’o told news.com.au. “He was a dear friend.”

Nyong’o and the Black Panther clan reunited for the sequel Wakanda Forever 10 months after Boseman’s death, and his absence was keenly felt. But it was also an opportunity for them to grieve collectively.

“It was surreal. It was hard,” Nyong’o recalled. “It was helpful to be with the main cast who had gone through the same thing. We had all been on the first Black Panther film together and we were all dealing with his loss together on this film.

“Coming to set was surreal but it was also therapeutic. When he passed, we were in covid lockdown and many of us were isolated when we found out. I was all by myself when I found out. So we never really had the chance to commiserate and grieve together.

“The experience really taught me why funerals are so important and why that period of gathering to mourn someone’s death is so important. It’s one of the ways you process loss.

“For us, to get back to ‘Wakanda’, even though it was a delayed venue to be going through our grief, it was the right venue because that was the place where we had formed these bonds with him, so we could come back together in that space and process what we had lost, celebrate the life we got to meet and enjoy.”

Wakanda Forever is the first live action character Nyong’o had ever reprised in a sequel (she voiced Maz Kanata in three Star Wars movies and a TV series). The experience of picking back up a character she last portrayed four years ago was a new challenge.

Nyong’o said she had to think about what choices she had made about Nakia in the first film, but that ultimately, Nakia’s journey mirrored her own.

“A character gets to grow as much as you have, and you’re coming to the character at a different point in your life,” she explained. “I honestly believe every character comes from a part of me, my being informs and effects the character.

“I kept thinking about how Nakia was T’Challa’s love. So what impact does that have on her? It really did inform how I approached the character because I understood the grief first-hand.

“I was contemplating his life so much and what he stood for, and his work ethic, and one of the things that was my mantra was something his wife Simone said at his funeral. She said that Chad was a man who took his time but didn’t waste his time.

“That was something I kept thinking, ‘take your time but don’t waste your time’. That really helped me approach this process with honesty and openness. I was so happy to be alive to make it because I know he had been looking forward to it, and he didn’t get to be there. I wanted to be as present as possible in his honour.

“All of us who knew him, we say his name, that’s how we keep his legacy alive.”

Nyong’o said that Wakanda Forever’s choice to address Boseman’s death and fold it and the emotional impact of it directly into the story continues that legacy.

“We’re saying Chadwick was here, he left an impact and we’re not going to forget it.”

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is in cinemas now

Originally published as Lupita Nyong’o: ‘My world shattered when he died’

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