Coming off of the transcendent success of I May Destroy You, Michaela Coel probably had any number of options open to her. Emmy in hand, Hollywood was truly her oyster—so it was no surprise to see her join the cast of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, one of the buzziest sequels of the year. From a high-profile perspective, joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a no-brainer. But Coel was intentional about choosing to sign on for this particular project.
“That sold me on the role, the fact that my character’s queer,” she tells Vogue about Aneka, a captain of the Dora Milaje who in the comics falls in love with a fellow warrior. “I thought: I like that, I want to show that to Ghana.” (The country, where the British-born Coel’s parents are from, has severe anti-LGBTQ+ laws.)
“People say, ‘Oh, it’s fine, it’s just politics.’ But I don’t think it is just politics when it affects how people get to live their daily lives,” Coel continues. “That’s why it felt important for me to step in and do that role because I know just by my being Ghanaian, Ghanaians will come.”
In recent years, Marvel has improved its LGBTQ+ representation (from… not having any), with mixed results. Eternals featured Brian Tyree Henry’s Phastos was seen in a gay relationship with a child, but the promised “Queen” for Thor: Love And Thunder’s King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) never materialized. There’s also been the issue of the films’ queer content being censored overseas, something that hopefully won’t happen with Wakanda Forever.
Then again, we don’t yet know how explicitly the new film will depict Aneka’s sexuality—if it goes the route of Valkyrie, not much would need to be censored at all. But given Coel’s comments on the subject, fans have reason to hope for more robust representation in that arena. (Is it too much to hope that she’ll be the one in the Black Panther suit, too?)