Agents of Change

Wakanda Forever stars on diversity, desire for Agents of Atlas spinoff

Mabel Cadena and Alex Livinalli say their changes from the comics to the MCU is “a beautiful thing.”

Namor isn’t alone in his battle with Wakanda. In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Tenoch Huerta’s treacherous Namor the Sub-mariner is aided by two close allies from his underwater kingdom of Talokan (formerly Atlantis): Namora, played by Mexican telenovela veteran Mabel Cadena, and Attuma, played by Alex Livinalli.

While the world of Talokan is appearing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the first time, its characters have deep roots in Marvel’s comic book history. Namora first appeared in Marvel Mystery Comics #82 in 1947 (eight years after Namor’s 1939 debut), while Attuma, often seen as Namor’s nemesis, surfaced in Fantastic Four in 1964. Both have stories of their own, with Namora having an especially pivotal role in a significant Marvel team: The Agents of Atlas.

Namora with the Agents of Atlas.Marvel

Mabel Cadena, who makes her English-language debut in Wakanda Forever, tells Inverse she wasn’t familiar with Namora but was excited to shape a legacy with the veteran character.

“I didn’t have any idea about my character in the comics,” Cadena says. “When I received the call, I was like, ‘Wait, who’s Namora?’”

It took a meeting with Wakanda Forever co-writer and director Ryan Coogler to enlighten her.

“My first meeting with Ryan, he introduced me to this world,” Cadena says. “He shared some information, and I started looking for the original comics.”

While Marvel comics traditionally illustrate Namora with flowing blonde hair, hazel eyes, and fair skin, Cadena appears in the film with both blue skin (a distinct biological feature of Talokans when they’re in airy environments) and her natural olive skin when underwater.

Cadena says she’s honored to introduce this new version of Namora.

“I'm very happy because I have the opportunity for change,” Cadena says. “Namora and I do not have the same face. I have a completely different color of skin. So I'm very happy to change the story of Namora for this new world. We have an amazing opportunity to make things different with our characters.”

Namora, Namor’s cousin, will have blue skin on the surface but Mabel Cadena’s natural tone below the water.Marvel Studios

Meanwhile, Alex Livinalli’s Attuma has always been blue-skinned, but Wakanda Forever introduces him as a loyal servant of Namor, not someone who believes he should be ruling Talokan. Like his co-star, Livinalli also had to do his research. He learned from Coogler that his Attuma is still the same villain from the comics, but with a few twists.

“I didn’t know what Attuma was all about,” Livinalli tells Inverse. “So I did research. I started reading who this guy is, where does he come from, the relationship he has with Namor. It’s all interesting. And when I met with Ryan, he’s like, ‘He’s all of that, but we’re gonna take a little different approach.’”

While Livinalli isn’t sure if Attuma will ever turn his back on his aquatic king, he expresses similar joy at bringing diversity to the MCU.

“It’s such a beautiful thing,” Livinalli says. “To see how he [Ryan Coogler] and the team are changing the whole narrative of who Attuma is, who Namora is. It’s great to see the change and inclusion and diversity within these characters.”

Attuma is Namor’s bitter comic book rival turned main muscle.Marvel Studios

While Attuma has a rivalry with Namor to bring to life, Namora has a journey of her own waiting on the surface. In the comics, Namora is a member of the Agents of Atlas, a superhero team formed by the FBI and led by Jimmy Woo (Randall Park).

While Cadena doesn’t know much about the Agents of Atlas or Marvel’s grand plans for the future, she’s more than willing to sign up.

“Yes! I would love [that]!” Cadena says. “Please call me for that.”

“I don’t know what happens in the future. But I think that team is amazing, and we have some elements right now. So I hope the studios make something with them because I would love to be part of a completely different world.”

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever opens in theaters on November 11.