Lupita Nyong’o who plays Nakia, an undercover spy in the eagerly awaited sequel “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”, has spoken out on the ‘deep responsibility’ she feels to enable young fans, especially those with darker complexions, to feel seen and heard.
She says: “These are exactly the kinds of projects I wish I had as a child and now I get to participate in totally shifting the paradigms that little kids are going to have about what’s possible for people of dark complexion. And that’s really cool that there might be a time when kids grow up not knowing that they could be considered less valuable…so I’m very excited about being part of the change, and creating a new status quo for a younger generation, a new bar of expectation.”
The second instalment of the Black superhero film which won three Academy Awards, has been credited for celebrating African identity and reshaping the representation of African countries and how the West, and Hollywood, views them. The ground-breaking film is also praised for not only being the first big-budget Black superhero film, but also for its representation of Black actors, filmmakers, and production creatives with its Black director, Ryan Coogler, and a majority-Black cast including Nyong’o, Danai Gurira who plays Dora Milaje general Okoye and Letitia Wright who plays Black Panther’s younger sister Shuri.
However, four years after the success of the original Black Panther, some of its stars have spoken out about the continued lack of Black representation in superhero films and Hollywood and the importance for children to see superheroes that look like them.
Danai Gurira says: “One thing I knew for certain was that there was no excuse for that lack…And that had to be rectified. And that’s still my purpose. Like it hasn’t shifted. I still feel that way. I still feel there’s a long way to go… It’s imperative that Black creatives continue to push for change in the film industry so movies like “Black Panther” can become the norm. When I see those young girls who are shown the Black ‘Little Mermaid’ … and their response, I’m like, not only do I feel great about it, I feel hopeful, but I also feel like, ‘Oh, no, we got a lot more work to do,’ because I need to come to a place where these girls are not surprised to see themselves.”
Letitia Wright says: “It definitely would have just opened more of my imagination. It would have definitely pushed me to be more inspired — to dream bigger. But it’s never too late. And it’s nice to see that the generation coming up, young boys and girls … can look at these films and feel so inspired.”
The film offers a poignant and powerful tribute to the film’s original Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman, who died in August 2020 from colon cancer, with the decision having been made not to recast his character. Instead, a group of characters from the first film take the lead making it one of the first big blockbusters with a cast made up predominantly of black women, and dark-skinned black women at that, who are seen as protectors and powerful warriors.
Lupita says: “We get to see them be fully human. That’s something that, as Black women, we are often not afforded on-screen. And there are so many female characters. All too often in these movies, there’s a token one or two. Here, you’re seeing a community”
Watch the trailer here:
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is out now.