The sequel to Marvel's Black Panther, titled Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, is adding the armored heroine Ironheart to its ensemble cast. Photos from the production’s location revealed scenes and props, setting up Riri Williams/Ironheart to make her debut in the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe film.
Who is Ironheart and what role will she play in the MCU? Check out the details below for more about the upcoming Marvel Studios movie.
Photos and Marvel announcement
First, a batch of photos was shared by Telegramdotcom through its official Twitter account. The photos are from the Worcester, Massachusetts shooting location of the Black Panther sequel. These photos show vehicles, including military vehicles and a police cruiser marked as being from Cambridge.
— telegramdotcom (@telegramdotcom) August 17, 2021
Why are these significant? Because Riri Williams (and her alter ego Ironheart) hail from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In the original comics, Riri is one of the beneficiaries of Tony Stark’s scholarships programs to help develop brilliant and talented young minds.
The second confirmation of Ironheart’s forthcoming arrival in the MCU comes from the top itself. Marvel Studios president and chief creative officer Kevin Feige, in an interview during the promotion of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, spoke about the current status of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and mentioned the inclusion of Riri Williams to the cast:
We're shooting Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, right now, and the character of Riri Williams, you will meet in Black Panther 2 first. She started shooting, I think, this week before her Ironheart series.
— ComicBook.com (@ComicBook) August 20, 2021
The Marvel Studios head honcho mentions the Ironheart series, which is an upcoming MCU Disney+ series like WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki. Announced during the Disney Investor Day back in December 2020, the Ironheart series will have Chinaka Hodge (Snowpiercer) as its showrunner. The show will be part of Marvel’s Phase Four, and it was announced that Dominique Thorne (If Beale Street Could Talk, Judas and the Black Messiah) would be starring as Riri Williams for the show.
Speaking with Empire Magazine, Dominique Thorne shared her experience with getting the role:
I was at home in Delaware and I got a call asking if I would like to play this role. It was the best phone call I could have ever received! I was so shocked, in fact, that there was a considerable lag in the conversation! (laughs) I was waiting for them to say, like, 'Oh, we'll send you the sides' or, 'Get your tape over to us.' But there was none of that. It was just like, 'Would you like to do this?' It was probably the most unique experience I've ever had because there was no audition at all.
— Empire Magazine (@empiremagazine) March 15, 2021
Who is Riri Williams aka Ironheart?
Riri Willams was created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mike Deodato. First appearing in Marvel Comics Invincible Iron Man Volume 4, No. 7 (March 2016), Riri was a child protégé with super-genius level intelligence.
During her teens, Riri suffers tragic losses of her family while also earning a scholarship at the prestigious MIT. As a coping mechanism, she studies the work of Tony Stark and decides to reverse-engineer an old Iron Man model to build her own suit of armor. During her first test flight with the jury-rigged prototype armor, Riri manages to stop inmates escaping from a New Mexico holding facility.
Tony Stark learns about this and seeks out the young genius. Stark then decides to support her efforts and become something of a mentor. Williams would later prove her worth when Stark becomes incapacitated after a battle with Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers). Riri adopted her own superhero identity as Ironheart. Although Stark would recover and resume his role as Iron Man, Riri would continue her armored adventures as a superhero.
She would later become a member of the Champions, a group of young legacy heroes such as Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), Nova (Samuel Alexander), Wasp (Nadia Van Dyne), Falcon (Joaquin Torres), Brawn (Amadeus Cho), and others.
Aside from comics, Ironheart has appeared in Marvel animated series like Marvel's Spider-Man (2017) and video games such as Marvel Future Fight and LEGO Marvel Superheroes.
Wakanda Forever role
Although Riri Williams is confirmed as being part of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the extent of her role is still unclear. It could only be a cameo or as a major supporting character before spinning off to the Ironheart Disney+ series.
The sequel to the blockbuster and critically acclaimed superhero movie Black Panther (2018) continues the story that began in Captain America: Civil War (2016) with the introduction of T'Challa. Although, sadly, the film will no longer have the talents of the late Chadwick Boseman in the role of T’challa.
The rest of the cast from the first Black Panther will be returning, with the confirmed actors reprising their roles including Letitia Wright (Shuri), Lupita Nyong'o (Nakia), Danai Gurira (Okoye), Winston Duke (M'Baku), Martin Freeman (Everett K. Ross), and Angela Bassett (Ramonda).
Introducing major new heroes in an MCU film has become a tradition ever since the post-credits scene from the first Iron Man film in 2008, with the introduction of Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. On that note, Riri Williams/Ironheart might not be the only superhero debuting in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Tenoch Huerta was cast earlier in 2021 for an undisclosed role, but it is rumored to be Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner.
Directed by Ryan Coogler, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will roar into theaters on July 8, 2022.
Ironheart will air on the Disney+ streaming service in 2022.