As its name implies, the new Marvel movie Black Panther is, primarily, about one dude: Black Panther. As played by Chadwick Boseman, the Wakandan king (also known as T'Challa) returns back to his home in the upcoming movie, where he encounters new enemies and works to prevent international war. But while T'Challa is most definitely the main hero of the story, he's far from the only person who deserves your attention — in fact, it's the women of Black Panther (of which there are, wonderfully, many) who might be the most badass characters of them all.
"The women as we meet them are departures from what we know of them in the comic books," explains Lupita Nyong'o, who plays Nakia, a paramour of T'Challa's and a member of the all-female bodyguard group the Dora Milaje, while speaking on Black Panther's Atlanta set. "I would say that what Ryan and Joe Robert Cole have done with this film maybe deepened our understanding of the role of women in Wakanda."
Speaking to reporters, Nyong'o is careful not to reveal too many details on her character, other than to say that Nakia is a "war dog" and "determined" and "methodical" Wakandan spy. Still, it's clear that the actor is nothing less than thrilled to take part in the film, out Feb. 16 — and why shouldn't she be? After all, in addition to being an action-packed, star-studded movie about one of Marvel's most compelling heroes, Black Panther also features a remarkable amount of women in significant, complicated roles, especially for a big budget Hollywood movie. In addition to Nyong'o, there's Danai Gurira, as the head of the Dora Milaje; Angela Bassett, as T'Challa's mother and advisor; Letita Wright, as T'Challa's brilliant little sister; and several others. It's pretty freakin' cool, as the cast of the film can attest.
"I don’t think there are any damsels in distress in this movie," says Boseman, speaking on the film's set during a break between takes. "All these [female] characters are strong. Even if it’s not a physical prowess, there is a mental prowess. It’s intelligence and savvy and all of them present that."
"I feel like Lupita’s character definitely exhibits strength and brains and brawn.," adds Michael B. Jordan, who plays the villainous Killmonger. "You get a chance to see all layers of a woman, all different sides and shapes and colors, I feel like you get a full 360 view of what a woman can do."
There's certainly been nothing like the Dora Milaje portrayed before on-screen. In addition to being T'Challa bodyguards, the group serve as special forces for Wakanda, a matriarchal society in which women are often both protectors and advisors to the men. "They present conflict without being enemies," explains Boseman. "They’re not afraid to challenge [T'Challa]."
It's not just the warrior women who'll be making waves in Black Panther, though, according to Boseman, Wright's Shuri, a genius inventor involved in creating Wakanda's advanced technology, is also a standout, as is Bassett's Ramonda, the Queen Mother of Wakanda. "She’s incredible to watch," Boseman says of the legendary actor, adding that because T'Challa's father is dead, the king goes to his mother for "wisdom."
While its peers in the superhero film genre tend to be lacking when it comes to female representation (seriously, where's that Black Widow movie already?!) Black Panther is stacked with awesome ladies taking center stage alongside T'Challa. As Wonder Woman proved back in summer 2017, the world is more than happy to see a group of strong, capable, badass women working together on-screen, and from what the cast is implying, the ladies of Black Panther will be everyone's new heroes in no time.