"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" Co-Star Alex Livinalli: "They Pulled Us Up With Them"

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Four years after Marvel Studios' Black Panther ushered a massive wave of Black representation into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, its highly anticipated follow-up Black Panther: Wakanda Forever just as powerfully welcomes in a new cast of Indigenous Latine actors, including Tenoch Huerta Mejía, Mabel Cadena and Alex Livinalli. In a recent interview on my Actors With Issues podcast, Livinalli explains how welcome he and his fellow MCU newcomers felt, some of the biggest challenges that came with his role as Attuma, and what he most looks forward to for future generations of Latine and Indigenous actors.

"It's an honor to be part of [the MCU], and this film specifically," he says. "This legacy started with the first film that Chadwick led that pushed for inclusion and diversity and knocked down walls and was just like 'We're here! Look at us!'

"Now it feels like Black Panther did this," the actor says as he extends his hand out, closes his fist and pulls it back toward himself. "They just grabbed us and pulled us up with them. It's just a total honor."

The untimely death of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman sent waves of shock and disbelief around the world, as he had been battling colon cancer without the knowledge of anyone besides close family. The actor's death was written into the story of the film as it picks up years after the events of Avengers: Endgame and opens with a ceremonial funeral of King T’Challa.

"It's a movie about loss but also about healing and seeing from day one how difficult it was for the returning cast members to go through this, to see the evolution of slowly starting to heal," Livinalli says. "It's something that touches you."

As the Wakandans mourn, the Talocan, a race of ocean-dwellers with advanced technology, emerges as a powerful new ally, and possibly a dangerous threat. Livinalli plays Attuma, a fearsome Talocan warrior and the second-in-command of Namor, king of the Talocan, played by Tenoch Huerta Mejía (Narcos: Mexico).

Speaking on the representation that the film displays, not just with the cast but with their origin stories taking root in ancient Mesoamerican and Mayan folklore, the Marvel star says, "To be able to show people from Central America and South America and give kids someone they can see themselves reflected in, that looks like them, talks like them, that's so exciting. Growing up in the U.S. I didn't see a lot of people who looked like me. We've always been told that we're different. That we sound different. But right now, Marvel has embraced that."

Livinalli was born and raised in Venezuela and moved to the U.S. with his mother at age 10. He says that after seeing Benicio Del Toro's performance in Traffic he gained a great interest in acting and went on to major in Drama at Miami Dade College. Throughout a career spanning almost two decades, he's gone on to appear in Ozark, The Walking Dead, American Horror Story and Queen of the South.

In our interview he also speaks about the many challenges that came with the role, including learning an ancient Mayan dialect that the Talocan people spoke, as well as underwater stunt training, and holding his breath for up to four minutes. "Once you get in the water the first few times, it's such a foreign environment that your mind starts to play tricks on you. It tells you 'Get out! You need air!'" he says with a laugh. "It's beautiful to see the growth that we had. Most of my training was with Tenoch and Mabel, and to see the growth from day one to the end, we just felt like, 'We did that! Hell yeah!'"

The actor also reflects on a tender moment he shared with his Wakanda Forever co-star Danai Gurira after the world premiere screening of the film in late October. "The movie ended and we saw the credits, everyone was up clapping and I turn around and see Danai. We locked eyes and just looked at each other like, 'Yeah, we just did that' and we grabbed hands. It was a beautiful, private moment amongst a multitude of people."

Livinalli’s advice for young actors: Follow your dreams. Follow your gut. It's not about the destination, it's the journey.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever premieres in theaters worldwide on November 11th.

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