Lupita Nyong’o Reveals The Changes She Made To Her Black Panther Character

Nakia talking to T'Challa

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been going strong for over a decade, with Phase Three serving as its most successful batch of films yet. Plenty of new heroes were brought into the franchise, as the MCU became a more diverse and inclusive place, featuring women and people of color in the process.

This change in the property is perhaps best seen with Ryan Coogler's Black Panther. The acclaimed blockbuster has already become a modern classic, breaking box office records, earning positive reviews, and even award attention. The project is notable for featuring an almost entirely black cast, while also featuring plenty of complex women like Shuri, Ramonda, Okoye, and Nakia. The latter is played by Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o, who recently revealed the way she contributed to the character's development, saying:

I remember talking to Ryan extensively about her. We were both very keen for her to be more than just the love interest, and we wanted her to have her own agency, to occupy her own space, as well as, of course, to support T'Challa. One of the things we worked on was making her part and parcel of the main argument of the story, about whether to keep the borders open. At the heart of it, she's an activist, which is a spirit I relate to.

In addition to playing Nakia with her typical strong acting abilities, it looks like Lupita Nyong'o was also very involved in the character's adaptation from the comics to the silver screen. What resulted was a complicated and nuanced character who functioned both within and outside of the confines of Wakanda's hidden safety.

Lupita Nyong'o's comments to THR will make a great deal of sense for hardcore comic book fans who are familiar with Black Panther and Shuri's roots on the page. Nakia was indeed a romantic interest for T'Challa, but it's a story that has sometimes gone decidedly dark. Her obsession for her King has caused her to become the villainous Malice, which would certainly be an interesting plot twist for a future installment of the Black Panther franchise.

Ultimately this side of Nakia came out by making the Wakandan heroine a fierce spy, and having her love for T'Challa only part of her characterization. Furthermore, she ended up having a role in the fate of her country as a whole. In addition to fighting with Black Panther against Killmonger, she was part of T'Challa's council regarding whether or not Wakanda should come out to the rest of the world.

The decision for T'Challa to share the power and wonder of Wakanda's vibranium-infused society would ultimately factor into the film's credits scene. Furthermore, it directly influenced the events of Avengers: Infinity War. The film's biggest battle was set in the country, with Black Panther characters like Okoye, Shuri, and M'Baku popping back up to fight against Josh Brolin's Mad Titan Thanos. As such, Nakia's role in Ryan Coogler's movie extends far beyond her screentime.

Nakia in the final battle

Speaking of screen time, Black Panther fans were disappointed and confused when Nakia was absent from the events of Avengers: Infinity War. Wakanda was a major setting for the film, but there were a handful of Black Panther characters that simply never factored into the narrative. For instance, Angela Bassett's Ramonda was noticeably absent, as well as Daniel Kaluuya's W'Kabi.

While the Russo Brothers previously stated they knew the exact location of Nakia, that's information that the directors haven't shared with the public. As such, hardcore Marvel fans are left to speculate and theorize regarding her whereabouts, and whether or not she and the other absent Wakandans were able to survive Thanos' finger snap of death (now known as The Decimation).

Wakanda is likely going to be in a precarious place when the timeline picks up in Avengers: Endgame. T'Challa's reign on the Throne proved depressingly short, as the Black Panther was one of the many characters to faded to dust once Thanos was able to accrue the Infinity Stones. As such, the country is in dire need of a new ruler. And as far as the audience knows, the heart-shaped herb that contains the power of the Panther was destroyed by Killmonger.

Shuri seems like the most obvious choice to take the Throne in Wakanda, given her family's bloodline. However, it's unclear if Letitia Wright's character survived The Decimation, as she was last seen battling Corvus Glaive and trying to protect Vision. The first trailer for Avengers: Endgame heavily implied Shuri got dusted, so could Nakia factor into the succession? Of course, the trailer could be throwing the fans off, with Shuri actually surviving Thanos' snap. We'll just have to wait and see.

It should be fascinating to see what comes next from the Black Panther franchise, given the first film's massive success. Ryan Coogler's blockbuster has become a staple of pop culture, making Marvel Studios a small fortune at the box office, while also being an important cultural moment. Marvel championing a black superhero broke new ground, and the film's insane success seemingly proves that audiences respond to inclusion onscreen.

Before T'Challa is given a second solo movie, Chadwick Boseman's signature Marvel character must somehow be revived from his fate at the end of Infinity War. While The Decimation was arguably the most devastating plot twist to come out of the MCU, it seems inevitable that Thanos' apocalyptic attack would eventually be reversed. Characters like Black Panther, Spider-Man, and The Wasp are still early in their tenures in the shard universe, so it stands to reason that they would be saved, allowing things to go back to normal. But how?

Ryan Coogler is set to return for Black Panther 2, which is good news for fans of the young franchise. As such, Lupita Nyong'o will once again be able to collaborate with the director, and decide the direction Nakia will go in future appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Nakia's fate will hopefully be revealed when Avengers: Endgame arrives in theaters April 26th, 2019. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release list to plan your trips to the movies in the New Year.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.