The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s depiction of Wakanda is about to get even more fascinating.
Lupita Nyong’o in talks to join the now-feverishly anticipated Black Panther film, which will be directed by Ryan Coogler and hit theaters in May 2018. While Civil War introduced one minor character, in addition to Chadwick Boseman’s searingly memorable T’Challa — the head security officer of the Dora Milaje — Nyong’o will likely play yet another Wakandan character, expanding and complicating the fictional African nation’s population. Of course, it’s possible, given the comic text, that she may play an American instead.
THR confirms that though Nyong’o’s character has not yet been confirmed, she will play a love interest for T’Challa. Comics fans know that Black Panther’s most memorable love interest was Storm, but that particular mutant is not currently licensed for an appearance in Black Panther (and was just re-cast in X-Men: Apocalypse). It’s got to be someone else, then. Let the speculation begin!
If Marvel wants to inject T’Challa’s personal life with some high drama, introducing American jazz musician and chronic damsel-in-distress Monica Lynne would be an interesting choice. In Panther’s Prey Issue 4, T’Challa breaks off his engagement to Lynne without giving her much explanation. Throughout the comics, she’s continuously kidnapped by supervillains and pops into T’Challa life.
While her backstory and role in the comics is far from fascinating, slapping the moniker “Monica Lynne” on a female protagonist in the film would allow the filmmakers the ability to make her whomever they wanted.
Malaika, one-time love interest of T’Challa’s, appeared in three Black Panther issues published in the late 1990s. She was a Wakandan representative in France, and could expand Black Panther’s global scope, if used in the film.
Monica is notable in T’Challa’s comics because the characters share witty banter that feels like foreplay that never really delivers. Black Panther comics which feature Monica, who eventually turns out to be a superhero herself (first called Captain Marvel, subsequently named Pulsar, Lady-Of-Light, Daystar, Photon and Sceptre) tend to linger on panels featuring the two characters gazing at each other. Their sentences trail off a lot when the other is around; it’s fun to read, and would translate well onscreen.
However, introducing Monica into the MCU has the potential to lock Nyong’o into a contract for a long time; it’s unclear whether the Oscar-winning actress would benefit from a blockbuster Marvel deal — she’s already appearing in prestige theater productions and motion-capturing her way through the Star Wars universe. If Black Panther were to feature Monica, however, it would be a badass tease of the highest degree if she demonstrated any abilities related to light. Her superhero identity is the product of, what else, exposure to an energy disruptor weapon.
Additionally, Monica is recruited by T’Challa as part of an all black superhero alliance which works briefly in New Orleans. Her compatriots include Luke Cage, Blade, Black Panther himself, and Brother Voodoo.
If we ignore The Hollywood Reporter asserting that Nyong’o will play a love interest in Black Panther, one could make a compelling argument for the stupendously talented actress to bring real depth to Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister, and eventual Black Panther herself.
If she’s introduced as Shuri in The Black Panther, Nyong’o could be a powerful presence on screen, rival T’Challa as both a political candidate and skilled combatant, and act out the most shocking moment in Black Panther’s history, which occurs during the war with Thanos. In short, Shuri could convince T’Challa’s legion of female bodyguards, the Dora Milaje, to support her candidacy as Black Panther, just as T’Challa joins the Infinity War. Doesn’t Nyong’o deserve a meatier role than a love interest, after all?