How Chadwick Boseman’s Friend Landed a Role in ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’

The much-anticipated release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a bittersweet moment for fans. On the one hand, the sequel to one of Marvel’s most critically-acclaimed successes is sure to be a joyful experience. On the other hand, the untimely loss of star Chadwick Boseman will be keenly felt. 

That loss was certainly heavy on the cast and crew on the set of the sequel. And honoring Boseman’s legacy became an important part of the film’s collective goals. That included bringing on one of Boseman’s friends in an important role. 

‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ was an emotional filming experience

Of course, a film that has generated as much interest as Wakanda Forever is going to get a huge press tour. The trailer garnered more than 170 million views in just 24 hours! 

Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, and Letitia Wright — all stars in the film — appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live to discuss their experiences. Kimmel took the opportunity to ask a question that many people were thinking: what was it like to film without Boseman? 

Nyong’o answered the question by describing Boseman bringing his “drumming buddy Jabari” onto the set with him. This is a reference to Jabari Exum, a DC-area performance artist who — as the Johns Hopkins Peabody Institute reports — “has been acting, drumming, and rapping since he was two years old and has been blessed with the opportunities to receive guidance from some of the greats across many fields of creative study.” Boseman was one of those Exum listed as a mentor. 

His passion landed him two music videos with rapper Common and work as a full-time musician and songwriter. 

Chadwick Boseman’s friend Jabari Exum performed during fight scenes

Nyong’o explained that, while making the first film, Exum often performed drums live during fight scenes. He provided the powerful percussion backdrop to these charged and hard-hitting cinematic moments. 

When filming began for Wakanda Forever, Exum was brought back to serve as a performer during these scenes. Gurira shared what having Exum back on the set meant in terms of honoring Boseman. “He had to be there,” Gurira said. The performers “really felt the spirit and the presence of Chadwick when we were able to just work that way.” 

Exum’s talents brought rhythm and order to scenes that could be challenging to keep choreographed. Aand his presence served both a practical and emotional role. 

Chadwick Boseman was honored in other ways with ‘Wakanda Forever’

chadwick boseman
Chadwick Boseman attends the European Premiere of ‘Black Panther’ at Eventim Apollo on February 8, 2018 in London, England. | Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images
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Winston Duke Says ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ Is ‘Its Own Thing’: ‘This Is Not ‘Black Panther 1”

The MCU does occasionally kill off characters. But the surprising death of a star left the fictional grieving in Wakanda Forever with a deeper meaning. 

As Kristy Puchko writes for Mashable, the plot of the film is “eerily meta, in that it asks how you carry on when the center of your orbit is gone forever.” 

Boseman’s memory is honored in many ways throughout the film. For example, the opening credits feature the familiar Marvel logo but with shots of Boseman in action rather than the more familiar Avengers opening. The loss of the Black Panther is also at the center of the mother-daughter conflict between Shuri and her mother, which may well determine the fate of Wakanda itself.

Even the decision not to recast Boseman’s character is a clear honor to his memory. In this way, even the loss of his presence on the screen is a constant reminder that he left shoes too big to fill, and the sequel had to go in a different direction that moved on in a world without him rather than try to replace him.