In 2021, it was rumored that Danai Gurira’s Okoye would have “a same-sex relationship with another Dora Milaje” in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. However, it was quickly apparent that this was a misunderstanding when it was revealed that Michaela Coel would play Aneka, another Dora Milaje.
In the comics, Aneka has a romantic relationship with Ayo, played by Florence Kasumba. Ayo last appeared in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and will return in Wakanda Forever. So the rumor was about Aneka and Ayo having a relationship in the sequel, not Okoye.
Now, this romantic subplot was reportedly confirmed in a new interview with Michaela Coel.
LGTBQIA+ Representation with Aneka
In a new interview with Vogue, it’s mentioned that Michaela Coel’s Aneka falls in love with Ayo, played by Florence Kasumba, and that “their forbidden affair” causes disruption in the ranks.
Michaela Coel said that’s what sold her on the role of Aneka in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: “the fact that my character’s queer.”
Coel found the role of the queer Aneka crucial to her due to her Ghanaian heritage.
For context, like many African countries, Ghana has draconian anti-gay laws dating back to the 1860s. But a new bill was put to the Ghana parliament last year proposing the most oppressive anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation in Africa.
If passed without amendments, it could make one identifying as gay or even an ally a second-degree felony, punishable by five years in prison.
For Coel, she wants “to show that to Ghana” and that “it felt important for me to step in and do [this] role” because she knows “by my being Ghanaian, Ghanaians will come:”
“I thought: I like that, I want to show that to Ghana. 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. 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.”
It was also revealed that Coel had previously auditioned for the original Black Panther when she was still attending the Guildhall drama school in London.
Coel recalled that it was the first time “we’d seen some sort of representation on a very mainstream platform” about Africa, its people, and its ancestors:
“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. Coming here, you do feel something magical.”
Unknown to Coel when attending the London premiere of Black Panther, director Ryan Coogler already had eyes on her due to her BAFTA award-winning sitcom, Chewing Gum, and her ease at mingling with cast members.
Coogler describes Aneka as “kind of a rebel” and that it fit Michaela due to her “pushing the industry forward and carving her own space:”
“It made a lot of meta sense with Michaela being someone who is pushing the industry forward and carving out her own space.”
Coel’s role in the Black Panther sequel was only taking shape before Chadwick Boseman passed away due to colon cancer, but “it felt like the entire cast was processing grief:”
It pushed Coel and the rest of the cast “to bring this baby home in the name of Chadwick:”
“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.”
Castmate and friend Winston Duke described the emotional experience as a bonding moment between them, which made Coel “really become part of the family.”
Aneka’s Rebellious Nature in Black Panther
It’s strange how Vogue described Aneka’s relationship with Ayo as “forbidden” when that wasn’t an issue in the comics. Instead, Aneka was going to be executed for her assassination of a village chieftain and Ayo freed her with stolen armor, not that their romance was forbidden.
Still, Coolger referring to Aneka as being “kind of a rebel” makes it apparent that the sequel will be adapting, at least partially, Aneka’s bigger character arc from the comics, as mentioned above. With Ayo, Aneka set out to root out corruption in Wakanda in the comics, so perhaps that will happen in this sequel.
It’s uncertain what will cause Aneka to act as a rebel in Wakanda Forever, but it more than likely has to involve the death of T’Challa and the unstable nature Wakanda finds itself in. This is not to mention all their enemies seeing themselves as vulnerable.
Hopefully, Aneka’s sexuality will be shown outside one line of dialogue or a kiss on the hand. Although, it’s curious how Kasumba’s Ayo hasn’t been spotted wearing Midnight Angel Armor, unlike Danai Gurira’s Okoye and Coel’s Aneka.
Fans will have to wait to see more of Cole’s Aneka when Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is released in theaters on November 11.