Please Just Recast Shuri for Wakanda Forever

Shuri Letitia Wright Black Panther

Wakanda Forever has had an extremely troubled production, thanks in no small part to Letitia Wright’s anti-vaccination views.

Wakanda Forever, the highly anticipated sequel to Black Panther, which is currently the highest rated MCU film on Rotten Tomatoes at 96% Fresh, has had a pretty tough go of things lately.  Some things simply couldn’t be helped, like Chadwick Boseman’s unexpected death from colon cancer in August 2020.  The tragedy pushed the film into a rewrite, which is entirely understandable and the fandom reacted accordingly with condolences for all the cast and crew who knew him. We were ready to support all involved in any way we could as we all dealt with the emotional loss.

Likewise, the ongoing pandemic presented certain hurdles for them, and when the project was pushed back twice because of this, we understood.  Everything was being pushed back, and it wasn’t their fault.  Fandom has been rallying around all the halted and delayed productions, supporting the cast and crew involved and wishing for them to remain safe in this extremely unpredictable situation.  Their safety is more important than getting things out on their original schedules, and we understand this.

The issues surrounding Letitia Wright’s anti-vaccination views, however, aren’t getting the same type of sympathy and support, and rightfully so.  This is an entirely preventable situation.  This isn’t an unexpected death or an unprecedented global pandemic.  This is one actor intentionally choosing not to take a vaccine that would help keep her fellow cast and crew safe.  I have no sympathy for her right now, and my sympathy for Disney as they continue to put up with this nonsense is wearing thinner by the day.  Something needs to be done here.

Trouble with Letitia Wright’s anti-vaccination views began last December when the actress shared a video on that spread dangerous conspiracy theories about an ingredient in the vaccine, luciferase.  She continued to double down on this opinion on social media for a while, even seeming to support transphobic rhetoric as she did so.  She never apologized for sharing transphobic content, nor did she really listen to those who wanted to engage her about the vaccines in good faith.  There were calls at the time to recast her then, but for some reason Disney decided to proceed with the project with her still starring as Shuri.  Wright deleted her Twitter account and things quieted down over the following months.

Production eventually began at the end of June, 2021 with the rewritten script and things appeared to finally be getting back on track.  However, the production was halted when Letitia Wright suffered an injury from a stunt in August, and she returned to the UK to recover.  Since then, the crew apparently continued to film all the scenes that they could without her, but had to stop when they ran out of content that didn’t include her.  The production is yet again disrupted. At this point the film is feeling quite cursed, and it’s honestly getting pretty depressing.

There aren’t many details about how severe the injury is, but if she’s still recovering two months later, it must have been much more severe than initial reports suggested.  When it first happened, they said it wouldn’t disrupt production, seeming to indicate that it was a relatively minor injury, but it’s clearly much worse than that. That is, unless it’s a cover for something else, but I admit that’s just pure speculation on the part of concerned fans on social media and there’s not much backing it beyond that. Frankly, we just don’t know what’s happening at this point beyond an ‘injury’ of undetermined severity. 

After this news came out, even more rumors about her anti-vax behavior began to spread.  An anonymous rumor made it’s way to Hollywood Reporter stating that she had shared her anti-vax views on the set of Wakanda Forever, but Wright was quick to deny it.  Like the speculation regarding her injury being a cover for something else, this could just be pure rumor.  It feels very believable, however, given her social media behavior last year, and not many of us would be surprised if it turned out to be true.

Then just today, Comic Book Resources has brought to light yet another potential issue that could delay production even further: Wright may not be able to enter the United States for work without being vaccinated.

[The] CDC implemented a new rule on Nov. 8, requiring all non-immigrant, non-citizens flying to the U.S. be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and give proof of their vaccination status before they board a plane to the country. Given that Wright is neither vaccinated nor a U.S. citizen, this will presumably complicate her return to shooting the film stateside.

Honestly, her spreading anti-vaccine and transphobic messages should have been enough to let her go from her contract.  Disney is very good at this type of stuff – just ask Gina Carano – but for some reason they chose to keep Wright despite the controversy.  At the time I speculated that Disney had spoken to her, and perhaps she’d changed her tune in private and decided to remove herself from Twitter as a compromise with the company. 

But having to delay a production that’s already faced rewrites, the death of a lead, and multiple postponements due to an ongoing pandemic yet again, this time because a cast member refuses to get vaccinated feels pretty darn ridiculous.  I honestly don’t know why Disney continues to keep her on with all of these issues.  Aren’t they tired? I certainly am.

Looking at the facts here, they’ve shot everything they possibly could without her, which means all that’s left are her remaining scenes.  This means a re-casting is still very possible, because they won’t have to reshoot everything, just the stuff done in the 8 weeks prior to her injury.  But even if they’d filmed most of it, recasting right before production has been done before.  Netflix reshot all of Chris D’Elia’s scenes in Army of the Dead with Tig Notaro at the last minute, Disney doesn’t even have to do that.  They can just replace her, reshoot what they’ve done, and then start the new scenes like they would have once she recovered and returned to set.

I wish I could be a fly on the wall of the team in charge of these decisions.  Why keep her, but can Gina Carano?  Why continue to put up with complications that are entirely avoidable if they just recast her?  Disney isn’t exactly hurting for money, so I wouldn’t really buy that as an excuse.  But what is the reason?  I’m absolutely dying to know. Recasting her seems like the easiest solution to get this production back on track, but Disney is resistant to it.  And I have no idea why.

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.


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