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Despite a number of setbacks, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” has resumed shooting. Following the unexpected death of star Chadwick Boseman, the production faced issues when Shuri actress Letitia Wright suffered some intense injuries while performing a stunt last summer. But after a lengthy hiatus, Wright has recovered and production is back on track. 

Considering how much Wright’s absence affected the shooting schedule of director Ryan Coogler’s upcoming sequel, we basically have confirmation that Shuri will be a major player in the Marvel Cinematic Universe moving forward. However, she won’t be the only one stepping up, as a much larger spotlight appears to be in Winston Duke’s future as well.

Witness The Might Of The Jabari

2018’s “Black Panther” proved to be a breakout film for Duke. While standing side by side with veterans like Angela Bassett and Martin Freeman and well-established modern talent like Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, and Michael B. Jordan, he managed to steal scene after scene with his intensity and comedic timing. His character, M’Baku, was even brought back for “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame,” since the powers that be realized that he too is one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Because of this, it’s no surprise that Duke in line to be a key player in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” — and beyond. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Duke negotiated “a hefty raise” to reprise the role of M’Baku “due to what is being described as an expanded role in the ‘Panther’ mythos.” While the details of this expansion are currently unclear (and Marvel declined to comment), there’s plenty of reason to speculate that he could be next in line for the title of Black Panther.

Even though Black Panther is a title that has been passed down from generation to generation, I’m personally Team #RecastTChalla because of what the character means to the Black community and representation in media. Plus, there’s still so many stories that can be told with T’Challa on the big screen. 

So, with Duke’s larger role in the future of the MCU on the horizon, what if M’Baku started to take more cues from his comic book counterpart? I’m not saying that he has to be a full-blown supervillain like the original Man-Ape, because Duke’s version of the character has gone beyond that. Moreover, producer Nate Moore told EW that a deliberate choice was made to not use the name “Man-Ape” for M’Baku:

“”We don’t call him Man-Ape. We do call him M’Baku. Having a black character dress up as an ape, I think there’s a lot of racial implications that don’t sit well, if done wrong. But the idea that they worship the gorilla gods is interesting because it’s a movie about the Black Panther who, himself, is a sort of deity in his own right.”

Since M’Baku survived the Blip and has been there for Wakanda while T’Challa, Shuri, and probably other high-ranking Wakandan leaders were away for five years, he might have differing thoughts on how the country should move forward after everyone’s return. After all, his tribe did separate themselves from the Wakandan way of life before because they didn’t agree with their methods. What’s stopping them from returning to that life if disagreements arise again? This could make for an interesting antagonist for Shuri or the Wakandan ruling council without necessarily making M’Baku a classic “bad guy.” 

With production back in full swing, there’s a chance that we could get more information about how Winston Duke and M’Baku could factor in to “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” soon. But with a release date set for November 11, it’s more likely that we’ll have to wait until the summer (probably around Comic-Con season) for a clearer picture.

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