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SYFY WIRE Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

'Wakanda Forever': Namor actor Tenoch Huerta didn't know how to swim before diving into role

Talk about being thrown into the deep end!

By Josh Weiss
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

If you're going to be playing the mighty ruler of an underwater kingdom in a big studio blockbuster, then you should at least know how to doggy paddle, right? Not exactly! When filmmaker Ryan Coogler offered Tenoch Huerta the once-in-a-lifetime role of Namor the Sub-Mariner in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the actor didn't know how to swim.

Coogler — who returned to direct and co-write the sequel — asked about his skills in the water, to which Huerta provided a clever response rooted in semantics: "I've never drowned before," he cheekily recalled during an interview for Entertainment Weekly's big preview article on the hotly-anticipated Marvel Cinematic Universe film. "I never lie!" added the veteran of Narcos and The Forever Purge. "I never drowned before, so that's not a lie." 

Talk about being thrown into the deep end!

Speaking to Empire for the magazine's November 2022 issue (now on sale), Huerta admitted that he wasn't even sure what the role was going to be due to a technical glitch on his initial call with the director. "He said something about a shaman and people suffering a transformation, but something went wrong with the Zoom connection and it froze for about five minutes in the middle of his speech," Huerta said. "Then he was back and he asked me, 'What do you think?' I said, 'Yes, thank you!' It wasn't until my team called me the next day that I found out he was offering me Namor. I was like, 'Holy sh**!'"

While the film retains core aspects of the beloved character — mainly his Spock-like ears and flapping ankle wings — it does change Namor's aquatic homeland from the Greek-based Atlantis to the Mesoamerican-based Talokan in order to better reflect Huerta's Mexican heritage. Like Wakanda, Talokan mainly prefers to keep to itself, often rebuffing intruders from the outside world. "They often find themselves in conflict because they're not dissimilar," Wakanda Forever producer Nate Moore explained  to EW. "They are these nations that would prefer to be hidden and isolated, with monarchs who are incredibly powerful and have strong points of view about how the world should be."

Production designer Hannah Beachler teased the look of Talokan, promising that it'll be "the freshest" take on Atlantis that viewers have ever seen. "We did a deep dive, because we wanted to get it right," she said, citing Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the artwork of Jack Kirby as major visual inspirations on this project.

Given the sheer amount of underwater scenes, costume designer Ruth E. Carter (who nabbed an Oscar win for her work on the first Black Panther) tested out different fabrics by soaking them in good ol' H2O. "You would put a costume in the water, and it would automatically look like ballet," Carter added. "It looked like those fish we love to watch on the National Geographic channel." In addition, she based certain design choices on the physical appearance of actual marine life such as sharks and lionfish.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever arrives in theaters everywhere Friday, Nov. 11. Tickets are now on sale.

Looking for more sci-fi content? Check out shows like Resident Alien, Brave New World, Project Blue Book, Eureka, Heroes, Intergalactic, and more streaming now on Peacock.