Entertainment

Mexican Actress Mabel Cadena From ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ Was Once Told People of Color ‘Would Never Be Superheroes’

As we gear up for the fast-approaching November 11 premiere of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” we can’t help but feel extra excitement to see the movie’s Mayan-inspired underwater paradise Talocan come to life.

With Mexican actress Mabel Cadena, 32, playing Talocan’s fierce second-in-command Namora, we’re nothing short of pumped — still, her recent comments on stereotypes in Hollywood shed light on the importance of representation in superhero films and beyond.

As per Entertainment Weekly, Talocan is a Mesoamerican civilization that brings in real elements from Mayan culture, bringing in historians to inform that part of the movie. The hidden world is set to incorporate jade and feather headdresses, and as Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta puts it, “That’s what inclusion means. It’s not just putting some brown-skinned people in front of the camera or giving them an important role. It’s how you’re creating the movie.” Amen to that.

There’s no doubt the upcoming movie has truly-noteworthy Latino representation, with Huerta playing aquatic antihero Namor, Venezuelan actor Alex Livinalli playing villain Attuma, Cadena playing Namora, and more Latino-led roles to boot.

That being said, the actress’s new interview with El País shows just how important the movie’s inclusivity really is. Cadena might play a Marvel hero now, but as she explains, she grew up hearing that people of color could not be superheroes.

The 32-year-old told the outlet, “I was told that people of color don’t look good, they aren’t depicted that way, that they would never be superheroes.” For that reason, nabbing the role of Namor’s powerhouse cousin “represented facing all the things that [she] had heard as a child” and turning them around for good.

Talking about representation, Cadena also explained how “sometimes an image on screen is much more powerful than describing certain things,” and also remembered being constantly typecast in Hollywood. Roles such as playing a prostitute in the movie “Asphalt Goddess” made her wonder if she would only be offered a certain type of “stereotypical” part: “It’s not that they are bad roles, far from it, but they didn’t give me other [parts].”

The Naucalpan-born actress didn’t let that faze her though, saying, “I didn’t let comments or stereotypes stop the journey I wanted to take”— even when a family member said she would only ever play “self-sacrificing” female roles.

Fluent in Náhuatl, Cadena told Gizmodo just how special filming the new “Black Panther” movie was to her. She described, “To me, it’s crazy because I can find in the movie the little things from my Mexican culture.” The actress continued, “And if you hear the Mayan language it’s like, ‘Oh my God, can you believe we have representation for the first time in a movie like this?’”

It’s true — the new movie reportedly brings in real elements of the Yucatec Maya language within the kingdom of Talocan.

As Cadena explained to El País, the roles given to her and Huerta give her “hope, not only for people of color but [also] hope that there will be diverse narratives.” Saying “it’s about making stories that touch [people], that are deep and that can show life’s diversity,” the actress sees this moment as a time to “embrace the boys we’ve left behind, the girls we’ve left behind, and to give them a chance to believe.”

There’s no doubt the actress, who holds a degree in psychology and a Master’s degree in education, will bring unique depth and complexity to Namora — thanks to both her background and her immense talent. As Cadena told People en Español, “When I watched the movie for the first time, to me [it] was like, ‘Oh, my God, that’s my face.’ And this face represent[s] different faces in Mexico, and that’s new and that’s huge.” We couldn’t agree more!

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” premieres November 11 in theaters.

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