‘Wakanda Forever’ casts on how film explores shared experiences of Black and Latinx people: ‘Our wounds are so similar’

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Angela Bassett and Tenoch Huerta go head to head in ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’. (Photo: Marvel/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Black Panther still stands as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most political film, with the 2018 Best Picture Oscar nominee featuring not only a predominantly black cast, but the complexities of what it means to be African (as represented by its hero, Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa) versus African American (via the worldview of his opponent, Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger).

So it makes sense that co-writers Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole added the new sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Foreverwith similar cultural commentary from the real world.

As T’Challa’s mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett), sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) and the people of Wakanda mourn the death of their king (a seismic plot change rewritten in the script after Boseman’s death in 2020), they also face with the merpeople of Talokan, an underwater civilization that, like Wakanda, has been kept hidden from the rest of the world. Ruled by 500-year-old Namor (Tenoch Huerta), the Talokan angrily emerge from the depths of their Atlantis-like kingdom when the US government begins to mine the sea for Vibranium. The precious element is also the Talokan’s most prized resource – another thing they have in common with Wakanda.

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The Talokan, based on ancient Mayan and Mesoamerican civilizations and cast with all Latinx actors, were forced underwater when their lands were invaded by settlers. (Africa-based Wakanda, according to Marvel mythology, managed to avoid colonization by hiding from the world.) Wakanda Forever‘s larger theme in which Coogler and the company explore the shared experiences of Black, Latinx and Indigenous people around the world. In many ways, the film’s budding rivals – Shuri and Namor – are the new T’Challa and Killmonger.

“On the things that our cultures have in common, I think a lot has been talked about and written about,” Coogler told us. “What happened on the content of Africa, if you think about what happened in America, you see similarities. … But in this movie, they both just want to be left alone.”

“Especially when you compare Wakanda, which was never colonized, to this Talokan who fled colonization, there’s a conversation about indigenous peoples and their experiences, which I find very interesting,” said producer Nate Moore. “Because it’s a shared experience. And it is an unfortunately shared experience by many people worldwide. And I think the conversation Namor has with Wakanda is, ‘Hey, this is why I’m so determined to protect my people. Because the only reason we live where we live is because we ran from this thing. That could probably happen again, and it could happen to you too.’

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“And I think that makes it timely. I think there may be a sense that colonization was a thing of the past, but it’s still happening.”

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNI - JULY 23: (LR) Alex Livinalli, Danai Gurira, Tenoch Huerta, Lupita Nyong'o, Letitia Wright, Dominique Thorne, Florence Kasumba, Mabel Cadena, Michaela Coel and Winston Duke attends Marvel Studios' x002019 ;  Live-action presentation at San Diego Comic-Con on July 23, 2022. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

Alex Livinalli, Danai Gurira, Tenoch Huerta, Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, Dominique Thorne, Florence Kasumba, Mabel Cadena, Michaela Coel and Winston Duke attend the Marvel Studios presentation at San Diego Comic-Con on July 23, 2022. (Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

Lupita Nyong’o, the Mexican-born and Kenya-raised actress who plays Nakia, says: “It shows how different the experiences are, but also how similar. Our wounds are so similar. And we see that in this story. Talokan echoes Wakanda, as much as the Latinx experience can mirror the Black experience. And I love how we compete against each other in this film. And at the end of the day it’s, ‘Okay, where’s our truce point? When do we see ourselves in the mirror?’”

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Huerta echoes similar sentiments, citing the events of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, also known as the conquest of Mexico, in the early 16th century. “Ultimately, we share the same wounds,” he says. “This catastrophe, this holocaust that happened to our people, our ancestors, it was almost at the same time [of the Atlantic slave trade]. Now, years later, we try [reconcile] with ourselves and with other people. So I think this movie and this kind of story helps create this unity and bonding between all of us. But yeah, we definitely share the same story.”

With its supporting cast, Wakanda forever will also be the first Marvel film to feature multiple Latinx actors.

“A large part of Black Panther‘s legacy is representation. Breaking down doors and making other cultures visible,” said Alex Livinalli, who plays Attuma and the first Venezuelan actor to enter the MCU.

Mexican-born Veracruz-raised Mabel Cadena, who also plays Namora, spoke no English when she was cast in the film.

“Thanks to the first Black Panther film and its cast, we have the opportunity to represent Latin American communities,” she says. “Faces like [mine], with this color. With this beauty. With this amazing diversity… It’s great to have all these cultures in our film. I am very proud of this opportunity.”

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever playing now.

Watch the trailer: