Michaela Coel is about to hit the big screen in a big way in the highly-anticipated sequel to the blockbuster Black Panther, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
This wasn’t her first time pursuing a role in the franchise. She auditioned for the first film and didn’t get a part. But according to the film’s director, Ryan Coogler, this is the role Coel was meant to play. “Aneka, the character Michaela plays, is kind of a rebel,” he said. “It made a lot of meta sense with Michaela being someone who is pushing the industry forward and carving out her own space.”
In the film, Coel’s character, Aneka, is a combat instructor of the Dora Milaje, the all-around badass female special forces unit of Wakanda. The Black Panther comics portray Aneka as queer. And in an interview for the cover story of the November issue of Vogue, Coel says that is one of the main reasons she went after the part. She hopes her role will shine a light on antigay policies in Ghana, where her parents were born. “That sold me on the role, the fact that my character’s queer,” Coel told Vogue. “I thought, ‘I like that, I want to show that to Ghana.’“
The 35-year-old British screenwriter and actress already has a pretty impressive list of credits and has made a point of doing things on her own terms. She wrote and starred in the BAFTA and Emmy-winning comedy-drama series I May Destroy You. The series, which centers around a young woman trying to rebuild her life after a sexual assault, is based on Coel’s personal experience.
Although Coel was eager to find a home for her project, she turned down a million dollar offer from Netflix that left her without rights to the show, chosing to sign on with BBC and HBO instead. “I’m not anti-Netflix,” she said, “but I am pro-‘the creator, writer, director, actor should probably have a right.’” And when the series finally hit the screen, the feedback was overwhelming, earning shoutouts from every corner of social media and finding some celebrity fans in Adele, Jane Fond and Seth Rogen, who tweeted, “Holy s— it’s good.”
As the world holds their breath for the Black Panther premiere, Coel continues to navigate Hollywood on her own terms. And she’s ready to show us what a real-life Black female superhero looks like.