At a recent press conference, the Black Panther team spoke about the female representation in the film. Here is what you can expect.

Black Panther is not only Marvel’s most diverse movie yet but arguably also has the best female representation of any Marvel movie. The cast is filled with women who each have significant and unique roles to play in the story.

Angela Bassett, who plays T’Challa’s mother, Ramonda, noted, “In African culture, they feel as if there is no king without a queen.” In reflecting African culture, Black Panther is able to strengthen the foundation of Wakanda, allowing this fantastical world to feel as if it truly exists.

Bassett continued, “This story highlights the queen, the warrior, the general, [and] the younger sister.” T’Challa’s success relies on support from all of these women. Black Panther takes the opportunity to show all of their stories.

Letitia Wright, who portrays Shuri, T’Challa’s sister, added that while the women support T’Challa, “The men are always behind the women as well.” Black Panther does not focus on the specific roles of women in Wakanda, as they are just inherently part of the mechanism that keeps this nation thriving.

Related: Black Panther movie review: A visual masterpiece that breaks new ground for Marvel

Because of this, women take on a variety of roles in Wakandan society. T’Challa needs the strongest people supporting him, which is where Shuri comes in as Wakanda’s head of technology. Wright explained that T’Challa fully supports Shuri’s endeavors, knowing that no one else could do the job better.

Dania Gurira was excited to see the “very developed, very complex” women in the film. Gurira plays Okoye, the head of the Dora Milaje, the all-female military force of Wakanda that serves as the monarchy’s bodyguards.

The Dora Milaje are distinctive with their shaved and tattooed heads. Gurira explained that she saw this as a subversive take on conventional beauty, as Okoye and the Dora Milaje embrace their bald heads as a “symbol of power.”

Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia) said that she loved how every single female character in Black Panther is distinct, and truly their own character, each with their “own sense of power and [their] own agency.” Black Panther’s portrayal of women is unique in that they “hold [their] own space without being pitted against each other.”

Nyong’o continued, “We see women going about their business and supporting each other, even arguing with each other, having different points of view, but still not being against each other.” She believes this to be a powerful message for both male and female children, to see “how much more effective a society can be if they allow women to explore their full potential.”

In addition to the representation of female characters within Black Panther, women were represented behind the scenes as well. Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler explained, “This film evolved from brilliant women… from start to finish.”

This initially involved executive producer Victoria Alonso, who helped shape the female representation in story meetings. Additionally, much of the team that visually created the beautiful Wakanda is female as well. This includes cinematographer Rachel Morrison, who was the first woman to be nominated for Best Cinematography at the Academy Awards, for her work on the 2017 film Mudbound, along with many other women on the Black Panther creative team.

‘Black Panther’ opens in theaters February 16, 2018

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