The news recently broke that Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o is in talks to co-star alongside Chadwick Boseman in Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther. The report states that her character is currently unknown, but “she will be the Panther’s love interest.”
With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at what character Nyong’o might be playing:
Shuri is not one of T’Challa’s love interests; she’s his half-sister. But reports have been wrong before, and Shuri is a fan favorite character from modern Panther lore, so this is still a plausible possibility.
She’s most notable for taking over the Black Panther mantle when T’Challa is taken out of commission. It’s doubtful that the filmmakers would be taking this route so early in the series, but she could still be featured as the warrior princess that she is.
Monica Lynne is an American who was T’Challa’s primary love interest since the 1970’s (in terms of comic book publication dates). The two were actually engaged to be married, but Panther called it off abruptly and without explanation. Circumstances continued to pull them together, much to Monica’s chagrin, and they maintained a strained but respectful friendship for years.
She’s an important figure in Black Panther history, but there are far more interesting characters for Nyong’o to portray.
The Dora Milaje are a group of female warriors who act as the Black Panther’s personal bodyguards. One was actually featured for a brief moment in Captain America: Civil War.
They count as love interests because they are sworn to the Panther, if he so desired them. However T’Challa refuses to take advantage of this relationship (except for one time when he was literally under the influence of the devil), and always keeps it professional.
The Dora Milaje are many in number, but the most notable have been Queen Divine Justice, Okoye, and Nakia (who became the rogue Malice after T’Challa rejected her advances). The current Dora Milaje taking center stage are Aneka and Ayo.
T’Challa’s most high profile relationship was with Ororo Munroe, the X-Man known as Storm. The two married and Ororo was Queen of Wakanda for a time, until they split in a rather hostile separation.
Marvel Studios doesn’t own the rights to the X-Men, so they probably can’t use Storm directly (the details are still hazy on how they’re able to use Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, but let’s assume that they can’t use other mutants in the same way). They may however be able to use a substitute character, like an African Inhuman. It’s possible, but very unlikely.
Malaika and T’Challa had a brief love affair that was only featured in a 1988 limited series. She holds very little recognition outside of the most hardcore Black Panther fans, which makes her another unlikely candidate. However, her low profile would give Marvel Studios a lot of creative freedom to work with while staying true to the source material, so she can’t be ruled out completely.
Who would you like to see Lupita Nyong’o play? Sound off in the comments below!
Black Panther is scheduled for release on February 16, 2018.