Yesterday, Variety broke the news that Chewing Gum and I May Destroy You multi-hyphenate Michaela Coel has joined the cast of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. She is apparently already in Atlanta and on set, as filming for the sequel began last month. As is typical with Marvel these days, we have no idea who she is playing. In fact, the entire cast of Wakanda Forever has not been officially confirmed, which is leading to some wild speculation. On one end of the spectrum are the fans who started shouting “STORM!” as soon as the news broke.
On the other end of the spectrum is speculation that Coel’s casting means that Letitia Wright is out as Shuri, and that Coel will be taking her place in the cast. I know that Wright landed in hot water last year when she appeared to take an anti-vax stance toward the COVID vaccines. She was (rightfully) criticized for spreading misinformation on her huge social media platform at a time when we desperately needed expert voices and facts, not celebrity speculation (and still do, frankly). But to leap from “Letitia Wright was unpopular for a second” to “Michaela Coel is replacing her” is a bridge too far. When has Marvel ever sacked anyone over controversy? They kept Scarlett Johansson on board despite reams of stupid sh-t she’s said over the years about what roles she can and cannot play, and continued support for Woody Allen et cetera. They might get sacked for asking for more money, but actors shove their feet in their mouths all the time and don’t get fired for it.
And with Marvel, in particular, it has become standard operating procedure to not confirm anything officially until they’re damn good and ready. They didn’t even admit Black Widow was happening until Comic-Con 2019, at which point the movie was over halfway done filming. We knew for months that Oscar Isaac is playing Moon Knight before the official confirmation came out (still disappointed they’ve dyed his beautiful salt and pepper hair for the role. Let our silver daddy thrive, Marvel!). So, taking into account that Marvel isn’t going to admit anything until they want to and that they’ve never fired anyone for saying dumb sh-t, which is more likely, that Letitia Wright has been replaced or Michaela Coel has been cast as a new character?
I would much rather speculate about Michaela Coel playing Storm than Shuri, because Coel as Storm would be AMAZING. Marvel is in no hurry to introduce the X-Men to the MCU, but with the multiverse coming, that reveal is getting ever closer (my money is on it being a multiverse thing, to explain where the mutants have been all along). But there is also Madam Slay, a character with connections to Erik Killmonger and the Mandarin, the latter of whom we’re about to meet in Shang-Chi. As much as I would LIKE her to be Storm, I lean more toward Madam Slay because she fits into pieces already on the board for Marvel’s larger continuity. Or, Coel could be playing someone totally new. Wakanda Forever is, by necessity, going to tread some new ground with the Black Panther mythos. Whichever way you cut it, though, I don’t think she’s replacing Letitia Wright. I look forward to finding out for sure when Marvel finally confirms the cast of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, six months after it comes out.