Interview: Tenoch Huerta And Mabel Cadena Talk ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’, Representation & Hopes For Namor Movie
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is taking the nation by storm, and rightfully so.
I had a chance to sit down with some of the newest actors in the MCU, Tenoch Huerta and Mabel Cadena, who play Namor and Namora, respectively. During our chat, the pair spoke about working with a dialect coach and the importance of reaching back to find their roots, specifically within the Latine cultures. An element of the film that I appreciated was the inspiration it drew from Mesoamerican cultures (specifically from the Yucatan and the Mayan post-classic period). It added a nuanced layer to the Talokans that was discussed during the interview.
Throughout the movie, Namor and the people of Talokan speak Yucatec Mayan. We began the chat by discussing what it was like working with a dialect coach to help build their characters. Cadena said, “To me, it was really hard, actually [laughs]. Because I’m a perfectionist, and sometimes my coach is like, ‘Hey, you need to say it, again, again, again, and again, the word. And you have to have the right enunciations because my people need to be represented with dignity, you know?’ And when he said that, I understood a lot of things around the world, around the language. And when I watched the movie for the first time, it was to me like, oh, my God! Indigenous languages for the first time in a movie like this, you know, in Hollywood, in this Marvel Universe, it’s huge! It’s…I cannot explain my emotion about that.”
With the introduction of Namor and the Talokan, we were shown Mesoamerican culture, which hasn’t been explored in the MCU. Huerta previously stated that he hoped this movie will inspire people back home in Mexico to reach back into our roots. Huerta said, “I hope this representation in this movie helps to, exactly what you said, embrace our heritage, embrace our roots. Because in Latin America and Mexico, we have these gigantic roots, which is Indigenous and African, you know? We worked with these two magnificent traditions. So, if we could embrace who we are and have a reconciliation with our past, it’s wonderful.”
Huerta continued, “For many years, we were taught to feel ashamed of who we are. And with this new representation, taking this character from Mesoamerican cultures, especially Mayan culture, and bring them to life and bring them to here, with this techno futurism, Indigenous futurism, African futurism, I think is a wonderful, wonderful moment. It’s a wonderful way to build new horizons. And if you can have different and wonderful horizons, then you can choose different paths, you know? You can choose different journeys for yourself and your community and your identity. So, I think this is such a great opportunity to make it possible. And, if a child, a girl or a guy, or a little boy is able to see themselves, they are able to see themselves in the mirror and feel proud of the image on the wall, you know – I think we’ve made it.”
As an audience, we don’t know what the future holds for Talokan, so we asked Huerta and Cadena what they would like to see further explored from Talokan. Cadena said, “We want the Namor movie!” Huerta followed with, “We want the Namor series! But we don’t know if that is possible or not.” Cadena continued, “But you know, it’s crazy because, in the movie, you find a lot of range in the diversity – the music in our culture, you can find it in the costumes, our culture, you know? The green, gold in Mexico. It’s crazy because if we have another chance to represent, again, all these things, I hope we can find more and more beauty about the Latin American culture, about our Mexican culture, about our faces, about our story, you know? I don’t know I feel very excited about the future.”