Marvel has confirmed that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will introduce the queer character Aneka, played by none other than Michaela Coel.
The first trailer for the Black Panther sequel premiered at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday (23 July), along with a string of announcements about the new film and the wider Marvel universe.
After much speculation, it was confirmed that I May Destroy You’s Michaela Coel will be playing Aneka. Coel was first announced for the film in July 2021, but her character had been kept under wraps.
In the Marvel comics, Aneka is the combat instructor of the Dora Milaje, the elite all-female special forces of Wakanda.
Notably, she has an enemies-to-lovers romance with Ayo, played by Florence Kasumba in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Ayo has appeared in Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
It is unclear whether Aneka and Ayo’s romance will appear in the upcoming film. But hopefully Black Panther: Wakanda Forever won’t fall into the same trap as Thor: Love and Thunder, which disappointed fans after its LGBTQ+ content was over-hyped.
After enduring years of criticism for its roster of straight, white, cis male superheroes, Marvel has placed a greater emphasis on diversity in recent years.
It introduced its first canonically queer superhero, Phastos (played by Brian Tyree Henry), in Eternals, while Loki confirmed that Tom Hiddleston’s trickster god is pansexual and genderfluid.
Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie was confirmed as LGBTQ+ in the most recent Thor film, though a promised queer romance failed to materialise.
Marvel’s executive vice president of film production, Victoria Alonso, promised more queer representation in an interview with Variety.
“It takes time, we have so many stories that we can tell. We will empower those that are. We’re not changing anything. We’re just showing the world who these people are, who these characters are,” Alonso said.
“There’s a lot that we have coming up that I think will be representative of the world of today. We’re not going to nail it in the first movie or the second movie or third movie, or the first show or second show, but we will do our best to consistently try to represent.”
Michaela Coel’s acclaimed show I May Destroy You was a huge hit with LGBTQ+ audiences for its powerful exploration of consent, with one storyline depicting the sexual assault of Kwame (Paapa Essiedu), a young Black gay man.
The writer and actor told Variety that she consulted with queer people to make sure the plotline was accurate and sensitive.
“Whenever I had to write a story that involved the queer perspective, the trans perspective or a gay perspective, I would definitely have to have a conversation,” she said.
“I would literally say to a friend: ‘I’m looking for a Black trans guy that I need to speak to, I’m looking for someone I can talk to about experiences, dating.’”
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will be released in the UK on 11 November, 2022.