Lauren Ridloff says her character’s gender swap is what attracted her to the role of the Marvel hero in Eternals. While Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Rings‘ world premiere and eventual release on September 3 is owning a lot of the MCU buzz right now, Eternals is currently on deck, waiting to drop on November 5. Like Shang-Chi, Eternals will be a significant deviation from Marvel’s standard superhero fare and will introduce a brand new cast of characters to the MCU.
Eternals also marks the first time Marvel Studios has tapped an Oscar-winning filmmaker in Nomadland‘s Chloé Zhao to write and direct an entry into the MCU (though Zhao’s Oscar win came after she’d already wrapped production on Eternals). The film chronicles an immortal alien race who have been secretly living on Earth for thousands of years and have never interfered until their evil counterparts, the Deviants, threaten humanity. The film’s titular superhero team is portrayed by A-list talent such as Angelina Jolie as Thena and Salma Hayek as Ajak. Other recognizable faces include Richard Madden as Ikaris, Kit Harington as Dane Whitman, and Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo. The film also includes some lesser-known talent like Lauren Ridloff as Makkari, who may be recognizable to audiences because of her role in The Walking Dead.
Now, per EW, Ridloff is revealing why she was drawn to her Eternals character Makkari and what made her decide to take the gig. The actress found it intriguing that the character’s gender was swapped from the comics to the film, which is ultimately what resonated with her the most. Read Ridloff’s explanation below:
What made it even more interesting to me was that they decided to make this switch, this gender swap. We couldn’t go more opposite to the original with this casting. Traditionally in the comic books, it’s this big muscular, buff, blond guy, and he’s hearing. And they considered me — a woman, Black, deaf — to play this role.
Ridloff has portrayed deaf characters on screen a few times before, namely in the Oscars Best Picture nominee, The Sound of Metal, in which she plays a kindhearted teacher who helps Riz Ahmed’s main character learn sign language. Her character in The Walking Dead, Connie, is also deaf in the show as well the source material. The character actually has a line in the show about her deafness not being a disability, but a superpower, so it’s only fitting that Ridloff is now playing a deaf superhero in Eternals.
Eternals is set to break a lot of barriers for Marvel by not only including the first deaf superhero but with Brian Tyree Henry’s Phastos as well, who will be the MCU’s first gay superhero. Makkari actually isn’t even the only character who was gender-swapped from the comics to the film. Salma Hayek’s Ajak, the leader of the Eternals, and Lia McHugh’s Sprite were both originally male characters in the comics. These are just a few ways in which Eternals will shake up the norms previously established by the MCU.