Those who want their art to come with a helping of topical commentary have likely been tracking Black Panther’s rumored omission of some of the LGBTQ layers found in its source material. But at least one of the actors whose role that omission might have affected says Marvel’s budding franchise is probably plenty woke — the critics just might need to hit the pause button until future installments get their chance to explore that territory.
Florence Kasumba, who plays Dora Milaje member Ayo in the movie, told Vulture that her character’s romance with fellow warrior Okoye (Danai Gurira) in the comics was among several threads that may have fallen by the wayside simply because the larger film already had tons of must-have setup material on its plate — and only two hours’ worth of runtime in which to tell it.
Without definitively acknowledging that such a scene had even been shot (or cut), Kasumba said the movie — the first in what will no doubt be a bankable new franchise for Marvel — just didn’t have the bandwidth to take on some of the more personal stories that future installments may afford.
“There are so many important things that had to be told in these two hours,” she said. “So the focus was on what is so important for T’Challa. What happens after the last movie that we saw. I know all the other scenes that we have also filmed that are not in the movie.”
Tons of stuff had to fall away in order for Black Panther to do the heavy lifting of setting up Marvel’s newest superhero universe. But, with the lore of its world well established by this first movie, the foundation may have been sufficiently laid for future installments to take on any number of social themes.
Kasumba says she’s totally cool with that. If Ayo and Okoye did have a romantic scene cut from the film’s story, after all, it was by no means the only narrative thread that was axed.
So would Kasumba have wanted to see Ayo's sexuality reflected on screen?
“I’d love to, at some point. Not now, because it’s too soon,” she told Vulture. “At this point, the focus is somewhere else … Who is in love with whom and whatever — that was not important in this movie.”
Black Panther already has received tons of props for organically weaving social themes into its story, one that feels essential to the world director Ryan Coogler has brought to life on the screen. One thing about Black Panther is certain, though: It’s poised to set box-office records and gift Marvel with another perennial blockbuster franchise — all while spurring the kind of cultural conversation so many other superhero films bypass completely.
Black Panther is now showing in theaters nationwide.