CHICAGO — Local film critic Emmanuel “E-Man” Noisette has seen huge support for his petition calling on Marvel to recast T’Challa, the barrier-breaking “Black Panther” hero played by Chadwick Boseman.
Boseman died of colon cancer last year, and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige confirmed T’Challa would not return in the sequel, which is in production. Boseman’s “portrayal of T’Challa the Black Panther is iconic and transcends any iteration of the character in any other medium from Marvel’s past,” he said.
But that move has been controversial, as many want to to honor Boseman’s legacy while finding a way to keep T’Challa on the silver screen.
Noisette, an IT specialist at University of Chicago who lives in the south suburbs, created a petition in April asking Marvel to instead recast T’Challa as a way to honor Boseman.
“The No. 1 way to kill a legend is to stop telling their story,” Noisette said.
The petition went viral in late December after Noisette and his fiercest supporters put out a coordinated effort to make #RecastTChalla and #SaveTChalla trend on Twitter. The petition now has more than 54,000 signatures.
A lifelong comics fan, Noisette said T’Challa is one of his favorite superheroes. Boseman was Noisette’s favorite actor, and Noisette interviewed Boseman at the Chicago International Film Festival. He’s now worried Marvel will quickly kill off T’Challa as opposed to giving another Black actor the opportunity to be a superhero role model.
“If Marvel kills this character off, you’re killing Chadwick again,” Noisette said. “And you’re monetizing this. That’s not a good look. Taking life tragedy and forcing into it your fictional story, is problematic and unsettling. How many times does the country have to mourn for him?”
Noisette is a member of the African American Film Critics Association and bought out movie theaters in Country Club Hills for Black kids to see “Black Panther” after it premiered in 2018. The film critic believes having T’Challa written out of the sequel is hurtful to young fans.
“Just the notion of not seeing that character again, and thinking about how deeply that he impacted those kids that saw themselves in that superhero,” Noisette said. “I was like, ‘Oh, this is gonna be an issue.’”
Boseman’s brother, Derrick Boseman, said earlier this month Chadwick believed his roles were bigger than he was. Noisette was struck by an interview where Chadwick Boseman told journalist Roland Martin, “I want people to see my roles and not me.”
“Chadwick understood the larger importance of the character,” Noisette said. “He wanted the world to see that a Black man can save the galaxy. He just wanted people to understand that T’Challa matters.
“Now, we just want the character to live on.”
Noisette said white heroes — like James Bond, Batman, Spider-Man and Superman — are “generational figures” who transcend their actors and are often recast.
Noisette said T’Challa, a character created in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement as the “embodiment of Black representation,” has his place among these immortal superheroes.
“Recasting has never been disrespectful,” Noisette said. “These leading roles mean something to Black actors, and the one character that has potential to be right along the lines of Batman, Superman, etc. is T’Challa. He’s supposed to be a cornerstone, not a stepping stone. We want his story to continue.”
The outpouring of support to save T’Challa hasn’t been too surprising, Noisette said, and he hopes Marvel will reach a “happy medium” by at least portraying T’Challa “in a different version, a different timeline or in a different universe.”
Noisette said his work “is a marathon, not a sprint,” and he continues to champion the cause by putting out content. Back in April, he custom-made a “#RecastTChalla” T-shirt to wear in his videos. Some supporters of his petition reached out asking for Noisette to send them shirts.
A week ago, Noisette donated the profits, about $1,000, to the Colon Cancer Coalition, he said.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: