After several setbacks, among them a major on-set injury and COVID-19 infections, Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is finally restarting production, with star Letitia Wright healed and back in Atlanta ready to resume her role as fan-favorite character, Shuri.
Production was initially to have restarted last Monday, but was delayed thanks to several cast and crew, Lupita Nyong’o among them, testing positive for COVID-19. Shooting is due to resume in Atlanta next week on the Ryan Coogler-directed picture for what sources say will be about a four-week period.
Last August, Wright suffered an injury while filming a sequence involving a stunt rig on-location in Boston. Production then shut down in late November after the Wakanda Forever team filmed as much as they could without Wright, while she continued to heal from home in London.
Eyes were on Wright, a British citizen, because she had expressed anti-COVID vaccine sentiment. The CDC late last year implemented rules requiring all non-immigrant, non-citizen air travelers to the U.S. to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of vaccination status before boarding a plane. While not commenting on her vaccinated status, several sources say those issues have been resolved.
Wright’s agent also did not comment, only telling The Hollywood Reporter, “She always intended to return but just needed to wait until she had fully recovered.”
Separately, sources say Winston Duke, who plays M’Baku, negotiated a hefty raise for his return to Black Panther, due to what is being described as an expanded role in the Panther mythos. What that expansion looks like is unclear.
Marvel had no comment.
Insiders say the restart is not expected to impact the movie’s release date, which currently stands on Nov. 11, 2022. It had already been moved once before, from July 8, 2022.
Wakanda Forever has trudged a rocky path so far. Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman died of colon cancer in August 2020 with Marvel and the filmmakers having to reconceive the project without the beloved actor. Wright, who became a breakout star in 2018 thanks to her work as Shuri, the sister of Black Panther T’Challa, was elevated to the lead of the sequel. It is unclear if that elevated status continues beyond this sequel into future movies or Disney+ series.
Wakanda Forever is one of three Marvel movies due out this year, including Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (May 6) and Thor: Love and Thunder (July 8). Marvel Studios’ Spider-Man: No Way Home, which was released by Sony last month, has topped $1.54 billion globally. Coogler and Marvel are also developing a Disney+ spinoff set in the fictional country of Wakanda that will feature actor Danai Gurira.
—Kim Masters, Alex Ritman and Scott Feinberg contributed reporting.