In Ryan Coogler’s upcoming sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the nation is left reeling by the passing of King T’Challa (played by the late Chadwick Boseman). It’s during their time of grieving, and of celebrating T’Challa’s life, that a new power rises up from the sea. The Talocan nation, led by Namor the Sub-Mariner (Tenoch Huerta), is seeking answers and justice for their people, which could spell out war for Wakanda. This conflict introduces all-new characters to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Mabel Cadena’s Namora and Alex Livinalli’s Attuma, who sat down with Collider’s Steve Weintraub ahead of the film’s release.
During their interview, Cadena explained the training, from underwater acting to learning to speak Mayan, that went into bringing the Talocan people from page to screen, and Livinalli shared a moment between him and co-star Winston Duke on expectations vs. reality. Both had high praise for director and co-writer Coogler for his ability to connect with his cast and crew and bring “the humanity out of each character.” Watch what they had to say in the player above, or you can read the conversation below.
COLLIDER: I want to start with sincere congratulations.
MABEL CADENA: Thank you.
Movie’s fantastic. I have to start with an individual question for you Alex because your character is a big part of the comics. I’m curious, when you signed on did Marvel pull you aside and say, „Hey, we have plans.“ Or is it sort of like you’re going to see as it goes?
ALEX LIVINALLI: Marvel doesn’t tell you anything. Nothing. They don’t tell you anything. Yes, this Attuma is very different than the one that everyone has seen in the comic books, but there’s also similarities to it. As far as what’s going to happen, only Kevin [Feige] knows.
Every Marvel person tells me the exact same thing. For both of you, this is your first time working on a Marvel production, especially a movie of this size and scale. For each of you, what surprised you about making a Marvel movie?
CADENA: Everything. Everything. It’s a surprise because, well, the training, it’s huge. It’s not easy. No, it’s like a MasterClass for me because you need focus on every part of your character. It’s like, we need training for swimming underwater, for acting underwater, for holding breath. You need to learn Mayan, you need to learn English, you need to learn a lot of things because we have a lot of diversity in the movie. So it’s huge work in a movie like this. It’s like, “Oh my God,” I need more hours in my day.
LIVINALLI: I’m going to say for me, a point that was very interesting. On my very first day, the first person that I met was Winston [Duke], and one of the first things that he said to me was, “You’re going to read the script. You’re going to think about what you’re doing. You’re going to think about what everything looks like by the description of it, but when you see it, it’s a whole different thing.”
So most of the things that we shot was green screen, and I was like, “Oh yeah, this is going to look like this. This is going to look like that.” But seeing the movie for the first time, it was just like, “Wow, this is pretty different than what I had in mind.”
LIVINALLI: It’s mind blowing it.
It’s crazy what they’re able to do. I’m a big fan of Ryan and what he was able to do with bringing in all these different characters, adding diversity, dealing with what happened with Chadwick. He really did an exceptional job. I’m curious, as a director what he’s like on set? When he pulls you aside to give you direction, is it a few words? How does he work with you to get what he needs?
CADENA: He’s amazing. He had an amazing energy because he whispered all the time in your ear like, “Hey Mabel, what do you need? I want you to feel comfortable. What is your experience as a Mexican woman, as a Latin American woman,” for bringing Namora some little things. And he tried all the time to speak our language. He tried to learn Spanish, some words. He tried to learn some Mayan words, and it’s amazing because you can find a lot of complexity with your director.
LIVINALLI: For me, it was such an amazing experience because he brings the humanity out of each character. It was such a unique experience because he finds a way to communicate with you in your own language.
LIVINALLI: I’ll give you an example. I’m a huge basketball fan. In one of our meetings, we started talking about basketball. And a lot of the times when he was giving me directions, he would use basketball analogies, and that to me was like, “Ah, you’re talking to me. Just right here. This is a conversation.” And for him to do that, I was just like, “Wow, I’m very honored that you’re taking this approach to just communicate with me.” So it was the most amazing experience. And not every director does that.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is in theaters on November 11.