With Marvel’s Black Panther taking so many cues from the comics, will the film see Nakia abandon the king and become a villain? Even without the all-star cast, prestigious crew, and Marvel name, it’s hard not to be excited for Black Panther to arrive in theaters. More than just translating a popular character to the big screen, the movie will break new ground in terms of representation. But while that’s been obvious in terms of its mostly-black cast and African setting, Black Panther will also feature a plethora of powerful female roles.
Behind the camera, there’s Rachel Morrison, the first female cinematographer to land an Oscar nomination thanks to her work on Mudbound, who filmed Panther alongside Ryan Googler. In front, T’Challa’s mother Ramonda, his sister Shuri, and the all-female Dora Milaje will ensure Black Panther focuses on a new set of women in the MCU. Shuri, for instance, will design T’Challa’s impressive new suit which was displayed in the first clip from Black Panther. As for Nakia, a member of the Dora Milaje played by Lupita Nyong’o, she may have the most complex arc of all.
During the set visit for Black Panther, we heard from Nyong’o about the unique role Nakia will play as one of the few Wakandans who travel abroad. And in doing so, she may just connect with her comic book destiny.
“I can say that Nakia, when we meet her, is a War Dog which means she’s one of Wakanda’s CIA agents. Her job is to spy around the world and report back to Wakanda to keep Wakanda safe and keep Wakanda informed.”
Nakia will spend her time undercover on various international missions, helping to make Black Panther the James Bond of the MCU. But her physical disconnect with Wakanda and her missions may just bring her into contact with Erik Killmonger, posing some interesting possibilities. On the page, Nakia debuted in 1998’s Black Panther #1 by Christopher Priest. After she was nearly killed, Killmonger found her and used sorcery to heal and give her new strength. Taking the name Malice, she fought alongside Killmonger as an enemy of the Black Panther, thus betraying her roots in the Dora Milaje. While this could unfold in the MCU, Nyong’o made sure to stress the film will deviate from the comics:
“I would say that what Ryan [Coogler] and Joe Robert Cole have done with this film maybe deepened our understanding of the role of women in Wakanda. So, I think it’s legal for me to say that the women as we meet them are departures from what we know of them in the comic books.”
For Killmonger’s part, he’ll be something of an outside figure having left Wakanda at a young age due to his parents’ exile. As such, even Michael B. Jordan was somewhat distanced from the production of the film. And because of Killmonger’s unfamiliarity with Wakanda, Jordan thinks audiences will be able to connect with his villain as they enter the world themselves.
“It’s interesting because I’m not really associated with any of the Wakandans. I guess I’m the best representation of America? So when it comes to getting into the characters from the offset, I’m kind of late in the game. This is the first project between me and Ryan where I wasn’t there from the very beginning. So coming into the middle of shooting, not really being there from pre-production and getting the chance to spend a lot of time with the cast and stuff like that, actually works in my favor. Because there isn’t really any real connection there on screen, in the script, so I think that separation helps me out a lot. But it’s one of those things where you tell everybody before they start, “I love you! I love you too! Ah! But in this one I’m not really gonna be smiling too much, you know?” I think people know me by now, I’m pretty warm and approachable and stuff like that, but on this one I’m taking a slightly different approach and kind of staying to myself.”
While Jordan seems to make clear his character has little to do with the rest of Wakanda, we know he will be connected to the outsider Klaue in his efforts. And with Nakia also having a sort of outsider role in Black Panther, perhaps her and Killmonger will find a way to connect. If so, Nakia could go from one of the MCU’s few female heroes to one of its growing number of female villains thanks to Black Panther.
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