As he prepares to begin production for Black Panther 2, director Ryan Coogler opened up about the long-awaited sequel and the decision to move forward without Chadwick Boseman—the original Black Panther star who died in August. 

Coogler told The Hollywood Reporter he was writing the film’s script when Boseman died at age 43, following a private four-year battle with cancer. The director admitted that returning to Black Panther would be difficult, but believed Boseman would’ve wanted the team to continue.

“It’s difficult. You’ve got to keep going when you lose loved ones. I know Chad wouldn’t have wanted us to stop,” he said. “He was somebody who was so about the collective. Black Panther, that was his movie. He was hired to play that role before anybody else was even thought of, before I was hired, before any of the actresses were hired. On that set, he was all about everybody else. Even though he was going through what he was going through, he was checking in on them, making sure they were good. If we cut his coverage, he would stick around and read lines off camera [to help other actors with their performances]. So it would be harder for me to stop. Truthfully. I’d feel him yelling at me, like, ‘What are you doing?’ So you keep going.”

Shortly after Boseman’s untimely death, Marvel Studios confirmed his role of T’Challa would not be recast. Walt Disney Studios, the parent company of Marvel Studios, announced the upcoming sequel will instead honor Boseman’s “legacy and portrayal of T’Challa” and “explore the world of Wakanda and the rich characters introduced in the first film.”

Black Panther 2 is expected to begin filming this summer, and is scheduled to premiere on July 8, 2022.