Letitia Wright has been one of the recent (or semi-recent) bright spots of the Marvel Cinematic Universe; her performance as Wakandan tech nerd/princess Shuri in 2019's Black Panther was a highlight of Ryan Coogler’s billion-dollar-making film.
After Chadwick Boseman’s unexpected death in 2020, Wright was seen as a natural successor for the nascent film franchise he led; it was easy to see how she could provide her own versions of the charisma, wit, and heart that Boseman brought to the role.
And while that’s still hypothetically true—with Shuri reportedly taking increased prominence in the upcoming Wakanda Forever—Wright has since been involved in a series of complications for the franchise. First, she came under criticism for social media posts supporting anti-science positions. Then (and this isn’t her fault, but it was, presumably, phenomenally inconvenient) she was injured on-set, forcing production to shift its schedule and, eventually, shut down.
Now THR has raised a whole new logistical issue related both to Wright, and to the ongoing arguments about vaccine requirements in the United States—both on Hollywood stages, and just generally.
See, the CDC released new guidelines on Monday stating that non-citizen, non-immigrant air travelers must show proof of full vaccination to fly into the United States. Wright—who’s been recovering from her injury in London—is a British citizen, and, according to THR’s sources, isn’t vaccinated. (Not wholly surprising, given her statements both public and professional.) Which means that, even if Disney could arrange an exemption to have her work on the film’s Atlanta-based main set, the question of how to get her there suddenly becomes an extremely pressing one.
All of this comes into focus as the Biden administration pushes harder for mandatory vaccine requirements, and Hollywood is forced to get more serious about its own enforcement. (Per the THR report, nobody wants to find out one of their stars has gone the Aaron Rodgers route, by getting themselves allegedly “immunized,” instead of vaccinated.) Many of these vaccine mandates go beyond self-imposed rules; the studios have been in ongoing conversations with the various acting and production unions to set guidelines meant to keep everyone on the film’s sets safe, especially in the on-camera “Zone A,” where masks often can’t be worn.
Wakanda Forever is currently preparing to shut down until early 2022, so the logistical questions related to Wright’s vaccination status are at least a month or two off from needing to be resolved. Still: When it does pop, it’s likely to be the most public flashpoint yet between the studios’ vaccination stances and performers refusing to accede to them.