Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Jungle Book star Lupita Nyong'o makes her Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Black Panther as Nakia, a Wakanda spy and former flame of new king T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman).
Asked about Nakia's complicated history in the Marvel comics — there Nakia was a royal concomitant so infatuated with T'Challa that she attempted to murder one of his former girlfriends, and eventually threatened Wakanda under the moniker of "Malice" — Nyong'o told journalists assembled during a set visit Nakia's loyalties lie with her native kingdom.
"I can say that Nakia, when we meet her, is a war dog which means she's one of Wakanda's CIA agents," Nyong'o explained. "Her job is to spy around the world and report back to Wakanda to keep Wakanda safe and keep Wakanda informed."
Official character bios describe Nakia as a "Wakandan spy pulled from her mission abroad by her former flame T'Challa," possibly setting up Nyong'o as romantic lead for the king-slash-superhero.
Nakia "consistently gets involved in conflict for the good of others, adamant to use her abilities to help those in need," and she "puts her skills of subterfuge and hand-to-hand combat to use in order to fight alongside Black Panther" following King T'Chaka's death and the rise of Wakanda's new enemies — namely Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), one of T'Challa's rivals threatening his ascendancy to the throne.
A recently released TV spot focuses on the conflict between T'Challa and Killmonger, who aims to rip away what the king has — if foreign threat Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), determined to get his hand on Wakanda's most valuable resource, doesn't beat Killmonger to the punch.
Academy Award-winner Nyong'o praised Black Panther for not pitting its female characters against one another, saying director Ryan Coogler "made a point of avoiding the expected female-rival narrative."
"In this genre, where spandex is involved, oftentimes the women are pitted against each other," Nyong'o said.
"In our story, there are so many different women holding their own space. Women may be in competition with each other, sure, but that doesn't necessarily mean there's an absence of love or respect."
"Making this film awakened me," she added, saying she walked away from Black Panther feeling "extremely supported" and "challenged."
Starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong'o, Letitia Wright, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker, Black Panther opens February 16.