In an interview with Vogue, Michaela Coel got into her role in the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe film Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, where she’s playing Aneka, the Dora Milaje combat instructor. In the Black Panther comics, Aneka is queer and eventually develops a rivals-to-lovers romance with the Dora Milaje commander Ayo. According to Coel, this is what got her on board with signing onto the project.
“That sold me on the role, the fact that my character’s queer,” Coel told Vogue. “I thought: I like that, I want to show that to Ghana.”
Coel grew up in London, but her parents immigrated there from Ghana. Returning there has been important for Coel.
“I’d been to Africa before—Kenya and Uganda—but when I came here I was really seeing people who looked like me,” Coel told Vogue. “Yes, there are a lot of sad things; poverty, unemployment, struggle. There’s also a lot of peace, friendliness. There’s a lack of anxiety.”
Having films in the Black Panther franchise depict African cultures was impactful for Coel; she was one of the young actors who auditioned for the first movie. Now that she’s been cast in the second one, a dream has been fulfilled.
“I think for a lot of people it was the first time we’d seen some sort of representation on a very mainstream platform about the magic of Africa, the magic of the people, our ancestors,” she said in the Vogue interview. “Coming here, you do feel something magical.”
Coel has a history of following her instincts and sticking to her guns when it comes to her beliefs. She famously turned down a huge Netflix deal for her show I Will Destroy You in order to retain her ownership of the intellectual property. It was this kind of attitude that made Black Panther director Ryan Coogler feel Coel would be perfect for the role of Aneka.
“Aneka, the character Michaela plays, is kind of a rebel,” Coogler told Vogue. “It made a lot of meta sense with Michaela being someone who is pushing the industry forward and carving out her own space.”