If there’s one thing that you should know about Mabel Cadena from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, it’s that she’s aware of the power of representation and what seeing someone like her on-screen means. Because it isn’t just about checking a box and making sure everyone is accounted for. It’s about changing the narrative for the Latine community from within.
And it starts with characters like Namora, who is more than Namor‘s right-hand woman.
Remezcla got a chance to speak with Cadena about Wakanda Forever, how she never expected to end up in a place like this, the challenges that she conquered along the way, and how a story like this can change the lives of those in our communities. And right off the bat, she wanted to talk about how even she recognized that this was a moment.
“I never expected to be in a movie like this,” Cadena recounted, remembering the first time she actually sat down to watch Wakanda Forever. “To me, it was like, “Oh my god, that’s my face there with this skin and with these eyes.” And if it could show her that she could reach these new heights, she realized that there was no way this wouldn’t change the lives of others when they watched.
With Namora, Cadena specifically hopes to move the needle on how Latine people see their stories in media. Because in many ways, through no fault of our own, we’ve come to see ourselves in media as the maid or gangster of the story. And characters like Namora show us that there is a way to change our expectations of who Latine people are on screen, ultimately leading “people to feel hope for their narratives” and how they are portrayed.
In filming Wakanda Forever, Cadena also did a lot of self-reflecting about the kind the young girl she used to be and the one who never dreamed that she could reach these heights. In a way, she gave up on a lot of her own dreams when she was a child. And now, she has “an opportunity to give her back those dreams.” Because now, “all the dreams, all the narratives are mine now.”
Cadena then went on to explain that the girl she used to be never thought that she could speak English and that her life was limited in many ways because of this. But now, she’s conquered that with Wakanda Forever. And if she could change her own mindset on this as well, maybe Namora, Namor, and every Latine person in this movie can change that for someone else.
“I can speak English. And I can work in a movie like this. And I can work in this country, in other narratives, in other fictions, in other movies. And I can work around the world in every country,” Cadena explained, her face literally shining at the doors that she knows have opened up for her because of Wakanda Forever. “I feel very excited about my future. It’s about my future and about the generations to come.”
We’re excited too. For this journey and every project you have coming, Mabel Cadena.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now in theaters.