It’s been a long journey for the cast and crew of the highly anticipated upcoming film “Black Panther” sequel, “Wakanda Forever.” Amid their struggle with filming without their King T’Challa, portrayed by the late Chadwick Boseman, who died after a private battle with cancer in August 2020, writer and director Ryan Coogler also dealt with overcoming his fears of swimming for the new film.
As part of a more extensive discussion about how Black people have been historically excluded from swimming, the Academy Award-nominated writer revealed that for the first time in his life, he, along with the cast members Angela Bassett and Lupita Nyong’o, took swimming lessons. “If the camera’s in the water, actors are in the water, I’ve got to be in there too,” Coogler told the outlet.
“A lot of us were raised to have fear of water,” the 36-year-old filmmaker said, admitting his own fears about why he and many Black people have avoided learning or how they have been blocked from using facilities over the years. For Coogler, his level of expertise stopped short of knowing how to “stay alive. “I had to figure out how to swim so I could direct this movie,” he continued.
“I remember it was a wild feeling like I can’t believe I’m this deep in water,” he recalled. “Then I started to work on the breath hold and got comfortable.”
While Nyong’o and Bassett, who play Nakia and Ramonda, respectively, in the new project, knew how to swim “a little bit,” they still required training from several underwater scenes, many of which were featured in the film’s trailer.
“You know, Black girls have this history with water and their hair,” Bassett joked. “Some of us can’t swim all that well because it’s going to mess up that press and curl. It’s a whole thing.”
The Golden Globe-winning actress said that after training, she went from being able to hold her breath underwater for “about 20 seconds, with effort” to a full two minutes. Nyong’o clocked out around the same. “Before we started this film, I knew how to swim, but I wasn’t a confident swimmer,” she shared. “I didn’t need to swim in public, that’s for sure. That’s a lifelong skill that I now have.”
During an appearance on the “Tamron Hall” talk show, Bassett opened up about her intense training with Olympic swimmers, “holding the weights and walking on the bottom of the pool,” calling the experience “very scary initially.”
“Black Panther II: Wakanda Forever” hits theaters this weekend.