Black Panther: Wakanda Forever opens exactly five weeks from today on November 11. Sarah posted the trailer earlier this week, and promotion for the film is now underway with Michaela Coel on the cover of the November issue of Vogue.
Michaela is new to the MCU. She plays Aneka, captain and combat instructor in the Dora Milaje. Since this is Marvel, there’s not much more we know about her role, other than the fact that, obviously, she has dedicated her life to the protection of Wakanda. As Sarah has already noted, the new trailer that just dropped pretty much confirms that the new Black Panther will be a woman and it’s probably Shuri. As Sarah also notes, there are others who might be more experienced for the role, like Nakia or Okoye, but if we’re looking at possibilities, Michaela’s Aneka could also be an option?
Michaela is an asset to the MCU – news of her casting was met with a lot of enthusiasm; she’s one of the most exciting talents in the business, and it would be such a waste if she was one and done in Marvel’s plans. That said, Michaela has her own reasons for joining the MCU. She’d auditioned to be a part of it when they were in development for the first movie and then in the years since, she produced and starred in one of the most acclaimed television series of the decade, I May Destroy You. So when the Black Panther opportunity came around again, this was Michaela’s motivation:
“… the fact that my character’s queer,” Coel says. “I thought: I like that, I want to show that to Ghana.” Like many African countries, Ghana has draconian antigay laws dating back to the colonial era. Most recently though, a bill has been put to parliament calling for some of the most oppressive anti-LGBTQ+ legislation the continent has ever seen. If passed, it could make identifying as gay or even an ally a second-degree felony, punishable by five years in prison. “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,” she says. “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.”
Ghana is actually the co-lead in Michaela’s Vogue profile which is both a standard celebrity profile and an excellent travel and tourism feature for the country. Michaela’s parents were born in Ghana before they moved to England, her father lives there now, and Vogue editor Chioma Nnadi was invited to interview Michaela there and spend time with her at all her usual hangouts. It was Michaela’s intention, then, to spotlight her cultural birthplace in the fashion bible to great effect. I want to go and try the grilled fish platter that she and Chioma have at a restaurant in Kokrobite on the Atlantic coast. I want to experience the Accra nightlife scene. I want to ride a bike along the paths where she goes rollerblading. I also want to look as good as she does when she’s rollerblading but this will never be possible:
This is an example of how intentional Michaela is with her work and with her celebrity. It’s one thing to be on the cover of Vogue. It’s another to make that opportunity more than just an exercise in self-promotion and wearing great pieces. I mean she wears a LOT of great pieces, including the sequined chartreuse dress on the cover of the magazine, but there’s much more here that she’s doing and that we don’t often see in the pages of Vogue: an artist of Ghanaian descent bringing the readers to Ghana and showcasing Ghana in the photos and in the article.
That same focus on intention informs Michaela’s approach to her career. I May Destroy You was a mega success and the way it works in this business, you’re supposed to ride that momentum. Instead, Michaela took a break, as hard as that was for her because she’s a doer, she’s a mover:
“Learning to break is the hardest part. You know, every time I think about that, I think about my career. Taking rest, learning to do that—learning to break,” she says. “It means something on every level.”
It has to mean something, especially for her after I May Destroy You. Because it’s a show about trauma, about resilience, and about healing. None of that is a linear process. You don’t make a show about a defining traumatic experience and never have to reckon with the pain ever again. And you could say the same about success. Too often, and not just in Hollywood but in general, we see success in the same way – that it’s one line that goes in one direction, without allowing that success can sometimes mean stepping off that line entirely. Or stopping for a while.
So Michaela ignored the compulsion and the pressure to capitalize on the success of I May Destroy You because, as she says, she just wasn’t feeling it. And she wasn’t about to force it. She’ll be ready when she’s ready. Until then, and for now, it’s Wakanda Forever.