Killmonger could have been remembered very differently.

Lia Beck
September 01, 2020
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Following the shocking death of Chadwick Boseman at age 43, his Black Panther director Ryan Coogler has written a tribute to him for The Los Angeles Times. In the piece, Coogler talks about his relationship with Boseman, the type of person he was (“calm,” “assured,” “kind,” “comforting”), and about working together on the Marvel film. As Coogler explains, Boseman’s input for Black Panther went beyond the development of his own character, T’Challa. In fact, he influenced one of the most powerful lines in the movie. 

“In early drafts of the script, Eric Killmonger’s character would ask T’Challa to be buried in Wakanda,” Coogler writes in the LA Times piece.

“Chad challenged that and asked, ‘What if Killmonger asked to be buried somewhere else?’” 

Michael B. Jordan’s character, Killmonger, ends up asking to be buried at sea. “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, 'cause they knew death was better than bondage,” Killmonger says. This is the character’s final line in the movie and it speaks to his entire arc. Unlike T’Challa, he is American and has returned to Africa. His ancestors aren’t just Africans, but enslaved Africans. According to what Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige told The Hollywood Reporter, Coogler thought he would be told to cut this line. Obviously, that didn’t end up being the case.

In addition to helping that line come to fruition, Boseman also suggested that T’Challa’s people, Wakandans, dance during coronations. “If they just stand there with spears, what separates them from Romans?” he said, according to Coogler.

He was also instrumental in Xhosa being the language spoken by Wakandans. The language was first used in a scene between Boseman and John Kani, who plays his father, in Captain America: Civil War, because it is Kani’s native language. Boseman encouraged Coogler to keep this for Black Panther because he was able to learn his Xhosa lines on the spot while filming.

“He also advocated for his character to speak with an African accent,” Coogler writes, “so that he could present T’Challa to audiences as an African king, whose dialect had not been conquered by the West.” 

Boseman was always going to live on in the hearts of Black Panther fans—and in the hearts of the fans of his many other movies—but thanks to Coogler’s eulogy, we now have a few more contributions to add to his legacy.