Black Panther accumulated historic numbers at the box office over the President’s Day weekend, earning $426.6 million globally and $242 domestically. Overall, the reviews have been exceedingly positive, and the film shines an important light on representation in Hollywood and black storytelling. However, last week, fans were upset over the alleged removal of a possible lesbian storyline between Okoye and Ayo, two of King T’Challa’s guards. This week, the actress who portrayed Ayo, Florence Kasumba confirmed the story to Vulture.
“The thing is, if the makers would have wanted everyone to see the scene, it would have been in the movie. The final result that we’ve seen, there were a few scenes that have been cut. Different scenes, alsothey didn’t make it into the movie for certain reasons, and at that point, I have to say: What their reason is, I can’t tell you, because nobody told me about whether it’s in or not,” Kasumba said.
The scene in question was showed to press as a sneak peak in April of last year, and included a flirtation between Ayo and Okoye. Joanna Robinson of Vanity Fair described the moment, noting, “Okoye eyes Ayo flirtatiously for a long time as the camera pans in on them. Eventually, she says, appreciatively and appraisingly, ‘You look good.’ Ayo responds in kind. Okoye grins and replies, ‘I know.’”
In the World of Wakanda comics, Ayo is in a lesbian relationship with a woman named Aneka, so the scene seemed like a nod to Ayo’s personal life. Unfortunately, the scene was cut and Marvel shut down the rumors that Black Panther would feature a lesbian character, which sparked the hashtag #LetAyoHaveAGirlfriend amongst fans.
“But at this point, I personally think people have no idea who T’Challa is, who are the Wakandans, what is Wakanda, where is Wakanda, what is their culture,” Kasumba told Vulture. “There are so many important things that had to be told in these two hours. So the focus was on what is so important for T’Challa. What happens after the last movie that we saw. I know all the other scenes that we have also filmed that are not in the movie. People have their reasons why not.”
So, maybe in the future Black Panther films, we’ll get a deeper glimpse into Ayo’s life. When asked if she’d like to see Ayo in a queer relationship on-screen, Kasumba said, “I’d love to, at some point. Not now, because it’s too soon. At this point, the focus is somewhere else. I started reading World of Wakanda towards the end of filming and I loved reading the comics. I loved reading about, ‘Okay, how do the Doras become Doras?’ That’s the whole reason why we had a boot camp [to train for the movie]: In order to be physically able to move as a unit. That was more important. That’s what I’m saying, right? Who is in love with whom and whatever that was not important in this movie.”
Last week, the movie’s co-writer Joe Robert Cole was cagey about the issue of straight-washing in an interview with Screen Crush.
“The scene you’re talking about, I don’t remember,” he told the outlet. “I can’t remember the exact exchange you’re talking about, but I think it was really brief. I’m not sure. I know that it was not–there wasn’t some major theme through that we were looking to explore with that in terms of the story. We didn’t, like, pull out a full thread of some theme.”
Black Panther is in theaters now.