Echo Star Alaqua Cox Explains Her Character and the Importance of Representation


In December 2020, it was announced that Alaqua Cox would be starring in the role of Maya Lopez, the famous character of Echo in the comics, and would appear in the Disney+ series Hawkeye. While Maya Lopez did not have a lot of connections to Hawkeye in the comics, the two did share the title of the hero persona, Ronin. Many assumed then that Maya Lopez’s role in the series would be as another successor character similar to Kate Bishop, with Kate taking on the mantle of Hawkeye and Maya Lopez becoming Ronin.


But in Mach 2021, eight months before Hawkeye premiered on Disney+, it was announced that Maya Lopez would get her own television series. Not only was it shocking that a character was announced to get a spin-off before she debuted, but that the series would not be titled Ronin, but instead, Echo. Then, when Hawkeye premiered, Maya Lopez began the show in an antagonistic role. While fans might have been skeptical about why Marvel Studios would give a lesser-known comic book character like Maya Lopez her own Disney+ series, it was clear from her first appearance on Hawkeye why — Alaqua Cox’s Maya Lopez proved to be one of the most exciting new characters in the MCU and Cox herself is a magnetic star.

Ahead of leading her own Disney+ series, Cox and many others from the cast and crew of Echo talked about the upcoming MCU project during a press conference. MovieWeb was honored to be invited and to hear Cox talk about her role in the series, her own connections to Maya Lopez, what it was like doing stunts on the series, and the importance of representation on screen.


Echo the Hero

Maya Lopez was introduced in the pages of Marvel Comics in 1999 in Daredevil #9, and was created by writer David Mack and artist Joe Quesada (who would later become Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics from 2000 to 2011). Over the years, Maya Lopez would become a bigger player in the Marvel Universe, being the first person to wear the mantle of Ronin and recently being the latest in a long line of people to wield the powerful Phoenix Force. The MCU version of Maya Lopez was introduced in Hawkeye, which featured her as one of the antagonists before shifting sides and leading to the adventure for her own series.

Related: Echo Star Vincent D’Onofrio Discusses Kingpin’s Role in the Series

Echo will explore more of Maya Lopez’s past. Cox gave a quick breakdown of the series:

“Maya is a deaf Indigenous person who has a biological family and an adopted family, and she’s trying to reconnect with her family after finding out that her adopted family, her uncle [Kingpin] specifically, betrayed her. So, she went back to reconnect with her biological family and try to rediscover a more complicated and deep life and rediscover that family. So, I’m hoping that she can learn, and we can all learn, how she rediscovered family.”

Similarities Between Alaqua Cox and Maya Lopez

Disney

Hawkeye was Alaqua Cox’s first acting role. Like Maya Lopez, Cox is a deaf Native American woman. She is also an amputee who wears a prosthetic leg; while Maya Lopez is not an amputee in the comics, this was added to the character for the MCU — it was a case of the actor informing the character. Regarding the similarities between herself and the character, Cox revealed how much they have in common:

I was raised with some trauma. We both have childhood trauma that we’re raised with. It was different, of course. For example, I grew up deaf and, as you know, I am an amputee. So, I went through many different kinds of surgeries as a child. That made me a warrior in a sense.

“And Maya had the death of her mother and all these tragic events that happened in her life,” continued Cox. “So, we both have different traumatic experiences. It kind of makes us very similar in a way because we’re both warriors, and we’re tough, and we’re badass, and I believe that’s how we’re the same.”

Related: Every Woman-Led MCU Release So Far (& Others We’re Excited About)

Stunt Work

Being an MCU series, there’s bound to be a lot of action. In fact, Echo is pitching itself as something more similar to the grounded, gritty aesthetic of Marvel’s Netflix shows, including the TV-MA rating. Fans got a glimpse of the action in the series after a clip of Maya Lopez facing off against Daredevil leaked online. Cox has a history in sports, as she played basketball and volleyball from 2014 to 2015, when she attended the Wisconsin School for the Deaf. She explained:

Luckily, I grew up playing different kinds of sports as well. Plus, I do have an older brother who helped me become more of an athlete because he’s very much an athletic person. We’re about a year and a half apart, so we wrestled growing up. So that toughened me up.

But the stunts for Echo would be a new task for her. “When I did get the role, I had a stunt training team. About five days a week, I would go to the training, and it was a lot,” said Cox. “I learned so much as well, because growing up in sports, there wasn’t a lot of stunt-specific things in sports, so stunt training was a whole new world to me. I was able to learn choreography, jabs, fights, and those specific moves, and that was so fun and very challenging. But that was the greatest part of the project, so it was a fun journey for me.”

The Importance of Representation

Echo TV Show poster

Marvel’s Echo

Release Date
January 9, 2024

Seasons
1

While the initial phases of the MCU were focused on white male heroes, the franchise has been attempting to diversify the lineup of heroes to better reflect the world of the viewer. From more heroes of color being put front and center, like Black Panther, Shang-Chi, and Ironheart, to even more women in leading roles like She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, and Captain Marvel, Echo is another step for the studio. The MCU introduced their first Indigenous hero a few weeks prior in What If…? season two with the debut of Kahhori (voiced by Cox’s Echo co-star Devery Jacobs), and Echo will be part of the main MCU timeline and the main character of the series. The series is notable for not only featuring a Native American hero in the lead role, but also for the number of Native American voices behind the scenes helping shape the series.

Related: Before Marvel’s Echo, Watch These 5 Movies & TV Shows

This also comes at a time when the discussion about how these stories get told and who gets to tell them is prominent. Much has been made about the recent release of Martin Scoresese’s Killer of the Flower Moon. While lauded by many as one of the best films of 2023 and a true cinematic triumph, others have commented about how the film might not do enough. Echo star Devery Jacobs voiced her frustration with Killers of the Flower Moon, speaking out against the depiction and treatment of Osage characters. While many might love Martin Scorsese as a director, and he certainly went in with the best of intentions, some questioned whether this was his story to tell and why Native American filmmakers are never given the platform, the resources, or the money to tell these stories.

Echo features many Native American creatives behind the scenes. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, along with advisers from the organization IllumiNative, consulted on the series in regard to the representation of Choctaw culture, legends, and history. The series also employed Indigenous ASL interpreters. Douglas Ridloff, the husband of Eternals star Lauren Ridloff, who was the first deaf hero in the MCU, also served as the ASL consultant for the series and incorporated Plains Indian Sign Language and other Indigenous sign languages that date back to pre-colonization into the series. Regarding this thoughtfulness, Cox was more than proud of both her work on the series and that Marvel Studios gave them the platform to tell such a story:

I’m just so proud to be able to represent a platform that is uplifting voices for indigenous people, and I’m just obviously so excited. I think it’s so great that we have authentic people being picked for these roles, and we’re able to show them on the screen in authentic representation. And we’re doing it the right way. That’s what I think is the most important.

Echo premieres all five episodes on Disney+ on Jan. 9, 2024. You can watch it through the link below:

Stream on Disney+



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