“Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler recently described his last conversation with Chadwick Boseman “a couple weeks” before the actor’s death in 2020.
In the new podcast “Wakanda Forever: The Official Black Panther Podcast,” which launched Thursday, author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates interviewed Coogler, who directed the original film and the sequel, which premieres next Friday. Boseman played the titular character, aka King T’Challa, in the first movie; he died of colon cancer at age 43 in August 2020.
“My last conversation with him was calling to ask if he wanted to read (the script) before I got notes from the studio. That was the last time we spoke. He passed maybe a couple weeks after I finished,” Coogler said in the premiere episode of the podcast.
Coogler, choking back emotions, took a moment to pause and collect himself.
“He was tired, bro,” Coogler continued. “I could tell he was tired.”
Coogler, 36, said he had been trying to contact Boseman to no avail.
“I’d been trying to get a hold of him for a few days, and Denzel had been trying to get a hold of him, too,” the director said, referring to Denzel Washington, who was a producer on “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Boseman’s last movie. So Coogler decided to text him.
Boseman called him shortly after.
“I could tell he was laying down when we were talking. And Simone (Ledward Boseman, his wife) was with him, and he kicked Simone out because he told her he didn’t want her to hear nothing that could get him in trouble with his (nondisclosure agreement),” Coogler said while chuckling.
“She didn’t want to leave him, so I could tell something was up,” he remembered. Still, Coogler said the two were “joking and laughing” and that Boseman talked about how they were planning their wedding in South Carolina.
The couple was already legally married at the time, but they never had the wedding ceremony they were planning.
Coogler said Boseman “asked about my kid” because he had missed the baby shower. He said the actor didn’t want to read the new script because he “didn’t want to get in the way” of whatever notes the studio might have or the like.
“But I found out later that he was too tired to read anything,” Coogler said.
Two days after Boseman died, Coogler wrote a heartfelt note about Boseman and sent it to media outlets. He said, in part, “I spent the last year preparing, imagining and writing words for him to say, that we weren’t destined to see. It leaves me broken knowing that I won’t be able to watch another close-up of him in the monitor again or walk up to him and ask for another take.”
Instead of being done with the script, Coogler had to go back to the drawing board when Marvel decided not to recast the character. He reworked the movie into a eulogy to the character and the actor who played him while also keeping the remaining cast members spirited and focused on their characters’ goals.
Angela Bassett played Boseman’s mother, Ramonda (affectionally called Queen Mother), in “Black Panther” and is reprising her role in the sequel. She told TODAY at Glamour’s Women of the Year Awards show on Nov. 1 that the new movie is “exhilarating.”
“We stood proud. We stood strong, and we did exactly what he would’ve done,” she said.