Michaela Coel Agreed to Join ‘Black Panther 2’ Because Her Character Is Queer: ‘It Felt Important for Me to Step In’

Michaela Coel is joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” and she confirmed to Vogue magazine that her character will be the latest queer character in the MCU. Marvel brought its first openly gay hero to the big screen in “Eternals” with Brian Tyree Henry’s Phastos. Now Coel will also be playing a queer character with Aneka, a captain and combat instructor in the Dora Milaje who is in love with fellow warrior Ayo (Florence Kasumba). Aneka’s sexuality is the main reason Coel decided to sign on to star in the “Black Panther” sequel.

“That sold me on the role, the fact that my character’s queer,” Coel says. “I thought: I like that, I want to show that to Ghana.”

Although Coel was born and raised in East London, she is of Ghanaian descent as both her parents hail from Ghana. The country’s parliament is currently looking over a new bill that will call for some of the most oppressive anti-LGBTQ laws the country has ever seen. Even before the bill was drafted, Ghana had strict anti-gay laws that date back to the colonial era.

“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,” Coel said. “That’s why it felt important for me to step in and do that [‘Black Panther 2’] role because I know just by my being Ghanaian, Ghanaians will come.”

Coel stars in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” opposite returning cast members Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Martin Freeman and Angela Bassett. Newcomers alongside the “I May Destroy You” Emmy winner include Dominique Thorne and Tenoch Huerta. The entire ensemble banded together to make the film through their grief following the passing of original “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman.

“It felt like the entire cast was processing grief,” Coel said about filming the sequel. “There was a sense that we have to bring this baby home in the name of Chadwick. I thought to myself, I’m rolling up my sleeves and I’m getting in. I don’t need to be front and center, I’m here to support.”

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” opens in theaters Nov. 11.