Didn't see myself on screen growing up: Alaqua Cox on playing first deaf, native American superhero - Hindustan Times

Didn't see myself on screen growing up: Alaqua Cox on playing first deaf, native American superhero

Jan 09, 2024 03:50 PM IST

Didn't see myself on screen growing up: Alaqua Cox on playing first deaf, native American superhero

Born out of Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) show "Hawkeye", the new series focuses on Lopez, a deaf, amputee and a Native American character.

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"I never imagined myself being a superhero because I grew up seeing average superheroes, who were not people of colour. Being a person of colour and with a disability, it is just so crazy to me that I have this opportunity," Cox told PTI in an interview.

The 26-year-old actor first played Lopez in "Hawkeye", the 2021 series starring Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfield, and made such an impact with her performance that Marvel decided to go ahead with a solo series about the character.

"Hawkeye" was also her first acting gig.

"I found out in the middle of filming that I'll be getting my own show. And I was like, 'No way. This is crazy. I cannot believe it.' And I didn't believe it at first. Of course, I was overwhelmed at first because that was my first time on set and I'm learning all these new things that I did not know before.

"And then they threw this at me and I came from a supporting actor to going number one on a call sheet. I just feel very proud of that moment," Cox said.

The actor, who was born and raised on the Menominee Indian Reservation in Wisconsin, said she wants to make people like her feel represented on the screen.

"My hope is that with diverse communities like us, we can do anything. I'm a disabled, deaf and indigenous person, and I have all these attributes, but now I'm a superhero... It doesn't matter how I am, what colour I am, what disability I have, I can still achieve greatness."

Historically in Hollywood, Cox said characters of deaf persons were portrayed by those who didn't have the disability but now things are changing.

"I know I didn't see myself on the screen a lot growing up, because a lot of the deaf roles were portrayed by hearing people, and they always used sign language wrong. So the deaf people might have a sour attitude toward it because they don't think that they can do anything.

"But now we have more deaf people in Hollywood taking on deaf roles. And so I hope that they will be able to see themselves within these roles and know that they can go for anything," she added.

"Echo", created by Marion Dayre, follows Lopez as she is pursued by Wilson Fisk aka Kingpin's (Vincent D’Onofrio) criminal empire. When the journey brings her home, she must confront her own family and legacy.

Besides sharing the indigenous roots and disability with her character, the actor said she had another similarity with the character.

"Maya is a very complicated person, she's full of rage and I don't blame her. She grew up with a lot of traumatic events that happened to her. In my childhood, since I was three years old, I've had surgeries that lasted a long part of my life because of my amputated leg. I was in the hospital a lot.

"I don't think that's usually normal for a child to have that many surgeries. But I grew up in a wonderful family. So, I would say that we have similar childhood traumatic events that happened to us."

The world of arts was totally new for Cox when she started her journey as an actor but Marvel was incredibly supportive of her, she said.

"This was very new to me in the acting world. I was very overwhelmed and so they did guide me and they taught me how to navigate through that. I just had a great support system that provided me with anything I needed.

"I got an acting coach and a personal trainer. And both of them were deaf, which was very cool and very nice. And there was a deaf consultant that was on set with me, translating all of the lines from English into American Sign Language (ASL)."

Cox recalled being nervous before meeting D'Onofrio, known for movies such as "Jurassic World", "The Magnificent Seven", "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" and "Dumb Money".

"Vincent, he's just top tier. He's been in acting for a very long time. When I met him, I wondered why I was so scared. He was so nice, but when the camera's on him, he is so intense. And of course I'm deaf when he has to yell at me, I can feel his vibrations through my body. So on camera, I would get a little bit scared, but off camera, he is completely opposite," she added.

"Echo", a five-episode series, also stars Chaske Spencer, Tantoo Cardinal, Devery Jacobs, Zahn McClarnon, and Cody Lightning. The show, directed by Sydney Freeland and Catriona McKenzie, will start streaming on Disney Hotstar from Wednesday.

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