“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” star Angela Bassett recently shared details about a beautiful scene that ultimately had to be removed from the film altogether.
As Variety notes, the actor is helping the “Black Panther” franchise to once again generate unprecedented Oscar buzz for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Though films within the MCU frequently appear in categories honoring aspects such as visual effects, costume design, and sound mixing, they fail to be nominated in categories considering performance, direction, or writing. Though films like “Logan,” “The Dark Knight,” and “Joker” have muscled their way through alleged preconceptions against the genre, Marvel Studios has only done so with the first “Black Panther” film; it was nominated in 2019 for best picture.
Bassett is currently considered to have a fair chance of receiving an Oscar nod for her performance as Queen Ramonda. In an emotionally raw display of vulnerability and range, Ramonda meets her tragic demise in “Wakanda Forever” with fire and grace. She recalled to Variety, however, that she was furious when she first read the script.
“I was not pleased,” Angela Bassett recalled to Variety, “I was so shocked… it’s like they gave you the greatest gift, and they snatched it away.” Her tenure in the MCU has been far shorter than most — even Martin Freeman’s Agent Ross got to play a sizable supporting role in “Captain America: Civil War.” Bassett appeared solely in the two “Black Panther” films, not including a small, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in “Avengers: Endgame.”
“Part of me was like, ‘Okay, don’t say anything, be strong,'” she said of her reaction to the news. She was torn, seemingly between simply accepting her fate and fighting against the will of writer-director Ryan Coogler. “Then the other part of me was like… ‘I just got to let him know,” she remembered, “That I don’t like this at all — and why? — and don’t do this.’ The love for Ramonda was so real and heartfelt, but you know — they always kill the heart and soul.”
Coogler has proven especially willing to axe prominent characters in his MCU films, especially given that other movies in the franchise seemingly avoid permanent death at all costs. In addition to killing off Ramonda, Coogler cut off Andy Serkis’ run as the refreshingly flamboyant Ulysses Klaue by having Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) murder him as part of a power play for Wakanda’s throne. Then Killmonger — himself a beloved villain — chooses to die rather than live out his days in a Wakandan prison. “Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships,” he said with his last breath in one of the film’s most poignant scenes, “Because they knew death was better than bondage.”
Ramonda’s death was significantly more shocking than Klaue’s or Killmonger’s and is made even more upsetting by Bassett’s touching account of her deleted scene with one of the film’s new characters.
According to Angela Bassett’s interview, she filmed a scene for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” wherein Nakia introduces Queen Ramonda to her and T’Challa’s son, named after his late father. “I went to Haiti, of course,” she explained to Variety, “I met [Divine Love Konandu-Sun, the actor who played Toussaint / T’Challa], I was introduced to him… but it wound up on the cutting room floor.” As Variety reports, Bassett painted a tender picture of the deleted scene, including how Nakia refers to Ramonda as the young T’Challa’s “nanna.” It would have been a subtle but heartbreaking way to ground this superhuman royal family as just that — a family.
This isn’t to say that the film doesn’t accomplish such storytelling goals throughout — after all, “Wakanda Forever” is an exhaustive, tragic portrait of familial love and loss. From Bassett’s perspective, cutting the scene made dramatic sense. Though it was likely a bit sad to see it gone, especially given that it was her character’s last chance to meet her grandson — the actor feels the final cut preserved the surprise for both Shuri and the audience. “It was the right way to go,” she praised. It may have been present in an earlier cut of the film, which editor Michael P. Shawver claims was over four hours long (per SyFy).
That being said, both Queen Ramonda’s absence and her lost meeting with T’Challa could be alleviated within the rules of Wakanda’s universe and culture. After all, Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger met Shuri on the ancestral plane — perhaps when young T’Challa is ready to pick up the mantle of the Black Panther, he will be greeted by his grandmother with open, loving arms.