Chadwick Boseman Was Responsible for the Best Line in ‘Black Panther’

Fans are still reeling from the shocking news of Chadwick Boseman’s passing. At age 43, the actor had already left behind a powerful body of work. He played real-life icons such as Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and Thurgood Marshall. But Boseman will likely be most remembered as T’Challa in Black Panther. Now fans have learned he also helped craft the movie’s most poignant bit of dialogue.

Chadwick Boseman at the European premiere of 'Black Panther'
Chadwick Boseman at the European premiere of ‘Black Panther’ | Karwai Tang/WireImage

Director Ryan Coogler remembers Chadwick Boseman

Prior to Black Panther’s release, few knew just how impactful the movie would be. Yet, according to director Ryan Coogler, Boseman could tell the film had the makings of a phenomenon. Following the actor’s death, Coogler penned a lovely tribute to Boseman in which he shed some light on Black Panther’s production.

When preparing for the film, [Chad] would ponder every decision, every choice, not just for how it would reflect on himself, but how those choices could reverberate. “They not ready for this, what we are doing…” “This is Star Wars, this is Lord of the Rings, but for us… and bigger!” He would say this to me while we were struggling to finish a dramatic scene, stretching into double overtime. Or while he was covered in body paint, doing his own stunts. Or crashing into frigid water, and foam landing pads. I would nod and smile, but I didn’t believe him.

Indeed, Boseman was right. Black Panther earned more than $1.3 billion worldwide and won Marvel Studios its first Academy Awards. The movie was even nominated for Best Picture, a first for a comic book film. Yet, it’s how Black Panther captures the Black experience that has made the most difference in the grand scheme of things.

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The ‘Black Panther’ star was instrumental in its best line

Amid Coogler’s reflection of working with and getting to know Boseman, the director’s statement revealed just how instrumental his star was in shaping the movie. Although Coogler shares screenwriting credit with Joe Robert Cole, neither man came up with Black Panther’s most unforgettable exchange.

While filming the movie, [Chad and I] would meet at the office or at my rental home in Atlanta, to discuss lines and different ways to add depth to each scene. We talked costumes, military practices. He said to me “Wakandans have to dance during the coronations. If they just stand there with spears, what separates them from Romans?” In early drafts of the script, Eric Killmonger’s character would ask T’Challa to be buried in Wakanda. Chad challenged that and asked, what if Killmonger asked to be buried somewhere else?

Rather than facing life in a Wakandan prison, Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) chooses a different fate. “Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, ’cause they knew death was better than bondage,” he says. It’s Black Panther‘s most cutting reference to Black history and a powerful capper to a thematically, culturally epic movie.

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Netflix will release Boseman’s final film in late 2020

Boseman’s iconic on-screen work will certainly live on. And his fans have one final performance to look forward to. The actor will star opposite Oscar winner Viola Davis in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, a drama based on the play of the same name.

The film centers on blues singer Ma Rainey (Davis) and the tensions that erupt during a recording session. Boseman plays a pivotal trumpet player named Levee in the Denzel Washington-produce movie. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is expected to hit Netflix by the end of 2020.