'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' explores Latino futures, queer representation

Watch '20/20 Presents Black Panther: In Search of Wakanda' tonight at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT and stream the next day on Hulu.

ByKendall Ross and Robert Zepeda via ABCNews logo
Friday, November 4, 2022
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Tenoch Huerta plays Namor, the leader of an underwater kingdom that comes into conflict with Wakanda, in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever."

In the wake of beloved actor Chadwick Boseman's death in 2020, speculation of who would assume the role of the Black Panther has been on the minds of fans across the globe. While the characters of "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" grapple with the loss of King T'Challa, the second film in the "Black Panther" franchise takes on even more, introducing new characters, storylines, and worlds to audiences.

The movie will be out in theaters on Nov. 11.

Tenoch Huerta Mejia plays fierce antihero Namor on a mission to protect the people of Talocan, a Latinofuturistic Mayan-inspired underwater kingdom at odds with Wakanda. In an interview with for upcoming 20/20 special "Black Panther: In Search of Wakanda," Huerta said that taking on the character of Namor allowed him to reconnect and reconcile with his own "Mestizo" background influenced by the consequences of colonial conquest and racism in Latin America.

"When I was a kid in Mexico, I never dreamed [of] something like this," he said, having seen little representation of brown skin in TV and film throughout his childhood. "I never saw anyone like me in movies, or TV, or publicity in Mexico."

Watch the ABC News Studios and Rock'n Robin Productions special, "20/20 Presents Black Panther: In Search of Wakanda," hosted by Robin Roberts, on Friday, Nov. 4 at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT and stream the next day on Hulu.

He hopes Talocan and his portrayal of Namor, the first comic book antihero, will be an example to kids and others of the Latin American and African diasporas.

"This is who we used to be and this is who we can be in the future," he added. "We have the opportunity to... make it different. And I hope this movie contributes [to] that feeling."

"It's time to recognize those wounds, and then heal the breaks in our heart, and keep going, and embrace who we are."

WATCH: 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' official trailer

Director Ryan Coogler said in an interview with "Good Morning America" that the team behind the film set out to delve deeper into Wakanda and its characters while also giving audiences "that same feeling' of being introduced to something new.""Talocan provided us that, you know, tenfold," he said.

Academy Award-winning production designer Hannah Beachler told "GMA" that the parallels between Wakanda's lauded Afrofuturistic feel and Talocan were rooted in a conscious decision in exploring the question of what is and what might have been.

"Afrofuturism is taking an idea or the thing that happened and reimagining what would it have been, what is the fiction, the sci-fi fiction behind what would have happened?" she said. "The parallels between [Talocan] and Wakanda are the same."

The Spanish conquest of the Maya in the 16th and 17th centuries and the colonization that followed devastated Indigenous populations in Mesoamerica. Beachler says the "intense" research of Mesoamerican cultures ranging from 900 B.C. to the 1700s, and how the Talocan would have migrated to an underwater realm was a necessary part of the world-building behind the film.

"It's, you know, not something that we're making up or discovering. It's there, and we're being influenced by that. And, you know, I think that for me, again, it was about honoring this culture, doing right."

Nate Moore, a producer on the film and vice president of production and development at Marvel Studios, told "GMA" he was "always struck" by the original "Black Panther" comics and their uncommon depiction of African exceptionalism, adding that Boseman was an essential part of showing that on-screen in the first film.

"Chadwick was such an integral part of why T'Challa was who he was," he said. "So, when he passed, that loss was felt pretty acutely, very quickly to the point where you almost considered whether or not it made sense to even make another movie."

"But maybe the movie has to deal with the loss of T'Challa in the same way that we're dealing with the loss of Chadwick."

Alex Livinalli as Attuma and Mabel Cadena as Namora in Marvel Studios' Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Marvel Studios

Speaking on the need to embrace the world within the film in reality and the production's endeavors to move the story forward, Moore discussed queer character, Aneka (Michaela Coel), and her inclusion in the movie at a time when LGBTQ+ rights are being contested.

"I think it's less about an intentional message and more about a truth to the character," he said. "So, rather than shining a giant lantern on it, it's like, no, this is just a tapestry of life."

MORE: Everything we know so far about 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever'

Marvel movie "Eternals" (2021) is banned in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait for its inclusion of a same-gender relationship between superhero inventor Phastos and his husband Ben. "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" was also banned in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Kuwait for the inclusion of lesbian characters America Chavez and her two moms.

"In Wakanda, it's not a deal at all," Moore continued. "I'm conscious of how images can travel and affect change...sometimes making things normal is the most important thing you can do."

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige told "GMA" the film is emblematic of Marvel's ongoing mission to make its works "a reflection of the world as it is".

"There's a saying at Marvel for decades and decades in the comic books, which is, 'The Marvel universe represents the world outside our windows,' " he said.

"And that is what the movie is about, it's about the loss of T'Challa. And, at the same time, like we all had to persevere in the real world, the characters in the movie need to find a way to continue ... these other characters and this world of Wakanda deserve to live on."

Watch the ABC News Studios and Rock'n Robin Productions special, "20/20 Presents Black Panther: In Search of Wakanda," hosted by Robin Roberts, on Friday, Nov. 4 at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT and stream the next day on Hulu.

The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of Marvel and this ABC station.