While discussing the emotional process of making Black Panther: Wakanda Forever following the tragic loss of Chadwick Boseman, writer/director Ryan Coogler has opened up about another struggle presented by the Marvel sequel: He didn’t know how to swim. With the film focusing on Wakanda’s epic struggle with Namor and the forces of the underwater kingdom of Taloka, several of the film’s scenes required heavy amounts of aquatic filming.
Unlike James Cameron, who kind of threw his Avatar actors in the deep end and forced them to learn how to hold their breath for minutes at a time, Coogler waded in with the cast and took swimming lessons for the first time in his mid-30s. “If the camera’s in the water, actors are in the water, I’ve got to be in there too,” Coogler told Variety as part of a larger discussion about how Black people have been historically excluded from swimming:
“A lot of us were raised to have fear of water,” the 36-year-old filmmaker told Variety, admitting his own trepidation and evoking the various reasons Black people have avoided — or ways they’ve been excluded — from pools and the ocean over the years. “I had to figure out how to swim so I could direct this movie.”
Fortunately, Coogler wasn’t alone in his struggle. While Angela Bassett and Lupita Nyong’o knew how to swim “a little bit,” the two also required instruction for Wakanda Forever‘s underwater filming. Their presence helped Coogler as he quickly became comfortable in the water and literally dove in to produce a blockbuster experience that’s been earning rave reviews.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits theaters on November 11.