Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is in theaters everywhere on Friday, and for star Lupita Nyong’o, the moment is surreal.
After the death of Chadwick Boseman in 2020, Nyong’o didn’t think they would be able to go forward with the sequel.
“When Chadwick passed away, I just couldn’t imagine going back to Wakanda. That was just an impossibility,” Nyong’o told ABC Audio. “All of us were really disillusioned by it and just asking the question, ‘What is the point of life?’”
Eventually, director Ryan Coogler called her to explain his vision for what a continuation of the story could look like. At the end of that phone call, Nyong’o cried.
“I wept because I was relieved. Because I felt like the story – he managed to do two incredible things,” Nyong’o said. “He managed to pay homage and tribute to Chadwick, and tell a riveting, socially poignant story. And take us on a ride. I don’t know how you do all of that, but he did it.”
Even still, Nyong’o said it wasn’t easy to come back and make the new movie.
“It was emotional to make,” Nyong’o said. “We were still very much experiencing the grief of losing Chadwick and it really informs the story that we told in this film.”
Nyong’o’s character, Nakia, was Boseman’s love interest in the first Black Panther film. This time around, Nyong’o said that her onscreen feelings mirrored many that she felt offscreen.
“Nakia taught me a lot in her emotional intelligence and wisdom. I had to really rise to the occasion, but I got to use my grief,” Nyong’o said. “It wasn’t hard to tap into those moments because they were truthful. And so, this film is a rare, really rare occasion where art is directly and deliberately imitating life.”