Michaela Coel has revealed she was “sold” on the role of Aneka in the upcoming Black Panther sequel because the character is queer.
The 35-year-old British screenwriter and actress stars as the captain and combat instructor of the Dora Milaje, the all female crew who protect the kingdom of Wakanda, in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Speaking to British Vogue about what drew her to the role of Aneka, Coel said: “That sold me on the role, the fact that my character’s queer.
“I thought, I like that, I want to show that to Ghana.”
Coel was born in East London to Ghanaian parents who emigrated to the UK before her birth.
Reflecting on the importance of playing a queer character, as someone with Ghanaian heritage and given Ghana’s strict anti-LGBT laws, Coel said: “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 added: “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 the film Aneka falls in love with Ayo, the second in command of the Dora Milaje, played by Ugandan-German actress Florence Kasumba, with their forbidden relationship leading to tension and disruption within the group of warriors.
Coel also spoke candidly about the feeling on set since the death of Chadwick Boseman, the US actor who portrayed the titular Marvel character in the 2018 film and later died of colon cancer in 2020.
Coel told British Vogue that when filming for the upcoming movie began last year “it felt like the entire cast was processing grief”.
“There was a sense that we have to bring this baby home in the name of Chadwick,” she said.
“I thought to myself, I’m rolling up my sleeves and I’m getting in. I don’t need to be front and centre, I’m here to support.”
Coel rose to fame after writing and starring in E4 sitcom Chewing Gum, which earnt her the Bafta for best female comedy performance in 2016.
She later created, wrote, produced, co-directed and starred in the comedy-drama series I May Destroy You, which aired on BBC One and HBO in June 2020.
The show, which was inspired by Coel’s personal experience of sexual assault, was released to critical acclaim.
Speaking about the prospect of finding love in the future, Coel said: “I do want a life companion.
“I love romance and I love when romance turns into something deeper, a relationship where there’s understanding, transparency, forgiveness, openness.
“But you have to find that person, and I personally haven’t seen many healthy men.
“So I don’t know if I trust myself.
“I’m trying to do the work.
“I talk about this in therapy all the time, and actually, person by person, they’re getting healthier and healthier.”
The full interview with Michaela Coel is available in British Vogue, out now.