‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’: Introducing the leader of the Talokan — Namor
“Namor for us was really an opportunity to introduce another politician, another sovereign ruler of a group of people who represents more than himself.”
In Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the secluded Kingdom of Wakanda quickly learns they aren’t the only secluded nation out there. Taking everyone by surprise, the Talakon emerge out of the water, led by their fearless leader who the Talokanil call “Ku’ku’lkán,” meaning the Feathered Serpent God. But more commonly, he’s called Namor.
Writer and director Ryan Coogler had been toying with the idea of getting Namor into the Black Panther universe since the first movie, noting that historically the Black Panther comics have “a really fun rogue gallery” considering all the different places the character has gone. Though Namor didn’t make it into Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, the character stayed with Coogler long enough to wind up front and center for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
“Introducing Namor for us was really an opportunity to introduce another politician, another sovereign ruler of a group of people who represents more than himself,” Coogler explains. But even more so than what he represents, Coogler adds that because of Namor’s heightened abilities, it’s very hard for others to go up against him — and win.
Not only can he swim incredibly fast and fly, but as Coogler continues, “[There’s] no equal in terms of his capabilities, being able to breathe underwater and breathe at high altitudes and walk around on land. He’s incredibly strong, he’s as strong as Thor, and if he’s around enough water he can be as strong as the Hulk.”
Another thing that makes Namor such a strong adversary for Wakanda? Producer Nate Moore adds that all Namor wants to do is to protect Talokan— and for the people of Wakanda, that’s dangerous. “He's not interested in ruing the world for power. He's not interested in money. He's interested in protecting his people. And what's more altruistic than that?”
Consider Namor’s core goal — keeping Talokan a secret and safe from the rest of the world — he ends up becoming an interesting foil to Wakanda’s Queen Ramonda and Princess Shrui. Due to the events in the first Black Panther film, the whole world knows about Wakanda now. Namor doesn’t want that same fate for his underwater nation.
“Here is a man who believes 100% that he is the hero in his own story,” Moore continues. “He doesn’t see himself as a villain because in Namor’s eyes what he is doing he's doing to protect a people who have already made it through a tragic history.”
But now who to embody a character — one of the first characters ever created by Marvel Comics — and bring him to life on screen? Moore explains that the creative team was “looking for someone who could embody Namor and elevate him past his sort of arrogant, holier than thou comic persona.”
Tenoch Huerta Mejía steps into Namor’s winged-ankles as the character, with Moore adding, “Tenoch’s performance is really interesting because he's seductive and he's smart. He is passionate about what he believes in and at certain points in the movie, I think, is winning over our heroes because of the truth in which he's speaking.”
Huerta Mejía echoes that sentiment. “For me, he's just a hero. It's not my job to think about how the world or the other characters look at him. How they perceive to him it's not my job. My job is he has a strong motivation. He has a clear path, and he knows why it's important. He's trying to protect himself and protect all his culture and his people from the exterior world, from the colonialism who is tempt him against their values and the whole culture.”
Huerta Mejía is also aware of the representation his character brings to the screen, adding, “It's the opportunity to play a character like this, which I hope going to be really important in terms of representation for many, many kids all around the world, especially in Latin America, especially for those that have the strongest indigenous heritage.”
However, more importantly for Heurta, stepping into the role of Namor means that his daughter can finally see him on screen. The actor’s had roles in intense dramas that he describes as “everybody’s dying, everybody’s having big troubles and whatever.”
But Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, “this is the first movie that my daughter can go to the premiere. She doesn’t have to wait until 18 to see my movies, so that’s a good thing as well. I just hope to have some respect from her when she’s a teenager. Like I'm going to say to her I'm a Super Hero.”
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, directed by Ryan Coogler and produced by Kevin Feige and Nate Moore, opens in theaters November 11, 2022.
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