In an excellent new feature interview with Spanish-language publication Life and Style, Tenoch Huerta admits that when Ryan Coogler offered him the part of Namor in Black Panther sequel Wakanda Forever, he didn’t know how to swim—a key skill for the ruler of Atlantis.
When asked whether or not he could, “I replied that I had never drowned and went back to my managers.” Regardless of whether or not swimming was a factor, he knew that if he said he didn’t know how to swim he might not be given the part. So he just went with it. “Jamás decimos que no y luego ya vemos qué pedo,” Huerta said; colloquially translated, it means, “We just say yes and then go see what’s up.” He arrived in Atlanta ready to go. Eight months of swim lessons paid off.
The whole feature is an incredible analysis of the colorism and racism at the heart of the Mexican film industry, and how Huerta sees his role as a leader for dark-skinned Mexicans in cinema. He’s writing a book about colorism in Mexican cinema, scheduled to be published later this year. Huerta is not only well aware of his position to enact change, but is actively searching for ways to push the narrative forward.
During filming, he said that he was respected as a collaborator. He was given space to enact real-world antiracist messaging over the course of the shoot. And Namor? Huerta is thrilled that he got the chance to help influence such a rebellious character. “In the comics, Namor is anti-capitalist and anti-colonialist. He’s a chairo,” a progressive revolutionary. As the Life and Style feature notes, it’s probably not a coincidence.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits theaters on November 11.
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