‘Eternals’ cast on the importance of diversity and the challenges of superhero costumes

Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie, director Chloé Zhao and the rest of the cast of the Eternals weigh in on what it was like to work on with such a diverse crew, why diversity matters and just how uncomfortable those superhero costumes were.

Video Transcript

- Throughout the years, we have never interfered.

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Until Now.

KEVIN POLOWY: Angelina, you've led such an eclectic career thus far, but you've never done a superhero movie like "Eternals" before. Had you been pitched any comic book roles in the past, and what ultimately convinced you to sign on with Marvel for this one?

ANGELINA JOLIE: So, I have. I won't say because then somebody else did it, so I don't think it's polite. But, I wanted to be a part of this family. I understood what this family was going to be when it was explained to me. I felt that was just so important and it was due time. And I just wanted to, in any way, support what this was going to be.

And I didn't really know exactly what my role was going to be, or you don't know. You don't know the script, you don't know how big or how small, you just have to say the idea of this, led by Chloe, was something that we were all willing to try.

SALMA HAYEK: Oh, I've never been known for a superhero movie before in my life. And I don't think there's another movie like this superhero movie either. I mean, I think it's really unique. And the cast itself, you know, the diversity within it, I'm glad nobody offered me anything before because then I get to do this one. And it's so much more special to get to do it in your 50s. It couldn't have gotten cooler than that.

KEVIN POLOWY: Gemma, you are really the first actor to play two major different characters in two different MCU movies, after Minerva and Captain Marvel. And now Sersi in "Eternals." Were you surprised yourself, like, when you got the call for this after already playing Minerva?

GEMMA CHAN: Totally surprised, and especially because that was only a couple of years ago. So, I was really-- I was not expecting to be back, and certainly not so soon. But I was, yeah, very honored to be asked back and to be in this film, which feels very different with this incredible cast. I just feel very, very lucky.

KEVIN POLOWY: "Eternals" is Marvel's most diverse ensemble yet by a long shot, from its multicultural cast, to its Latino leader, to its first deaf superhero, to the MCU's first gay married couple. Was that part of the film's design from the ground up when you came on when you pitched it? Or was that something you worked with Marvel to enhance along the way?

CHLOE ZHAO: I'll give that credit to Marvel because when I arrived, the treatment that they had worked out was filled with these changes and these firsts that you're talking about. And that really was also a big part of what drew me to it. My job is to make sure these moments aren't just onscreen for the sake of being on screen, but still felt very emotional and human.

ANGELINA JOLIE: For diversity, what was amazing is I think when we first all stood together, one of those, I think it was Comic Con, we were all just meeting and it was kind of this-- we were such a different group. But really when we got on set and everybody was together, it just felt correct. It did feel emotional because it was the first time you were seeing it. Everybody's diversity made it. It makes us stronger. Diversity makes you stronger. So I love our "Eternals" family. We are strong because of the diversity.

SALMA HAYEK: I'll tell you where it really hit me. At the premiere when I got out of the car, I saw the Marvel fans. Oh my God, they already have the costumes, that's amazing. And then all of a sudden you say, oh, there I am. There's Ajak. And you almost get star struck with your own character worn by someone else. Oh my God, Ajak.

The one that really hit me, there was a family. The father was there taking pictures, he was dressed normally. The wife and the three daughters, who were all Latino, they were all Ajaks. And to see the different generation, the different ages all be superheroes-- Oh my God, what it took for me not to cry. I was like think of the fake eyelashes and the mascara. I can't cry. You got to hold it together. You have a lot of interviews to do.

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KEVIN POLOWY: Lauren, you are shattering a glass ceiling here as Marvel's first deaf superhero. What does that milestone mean to you personally, and also for the implications it can have for the deaf acting community at large?

LAUREN RIDLOFF: Well, I hope that this means that my two boys, who are also deaf, are going to see that there are no more glass ceilings.

KUMAIL NANJIANI: You know, honestly, I understood when I saw the announcement. Everybody, I was like, wow, this is a truly global superhero team. But then when you're there shooting, you're just hanging out with the people, with your friends, with your family. You don't think of it as, like, wow, I'm working with the first deaf superhero. I'm like, I'm working with Lauren and I love her and she's amazing. But while I'm shooting, I'm not thinking about the diversity of the cast, I'm just thinking about how lucky I am to be able to work with these people.

KEVIN POLOWY: Kitt, I got to start here with you because this is just something that fans are so especially excited about, the fact that "Eternals" marks a little nice brotherly "Game of Thrones" reunion for you and Richard. Was that coincidental and how special was that for you guys to reunite here?

KIT HARRINGTON: Yeah. I mean, completely coincidental. You do kind of run into other actors you've worked with before. And that's kind of how it was for me and Richard. It just so happened the thing we worked on was a kind of quite a seminal piece for both of us. It was just nice being on set with a friend and catching up, and then having to step in front of camera and actually do some work.

RICHARD MADDEN: It's just lovely to be back on screen with Kit. And kit and Gemma and I are all friends for years, anyway, so it was quite nice for me go to work and you're there with friends. Sadly, it wasn't enough time on screen, but hopefully there'll be more of that.

KEVIN POLOWY: Richard, as the resident flyer among the bunch, how much time were you on wires throughout this shoot? I imagine that probably took up a good amount of time.

RICHARD MADDEN: A god chunk of time because I don't wear a helmet or a mask.

KEVIN POLOWY: Right.

RICHARD MADDEN: We couldn't fake that out, so it had to be me up there swooping around. But it was kind of really great. It's a new skill set, it's a really unique skill set to learn. I was like, how do I do this and make it look graceful and elegant? And there was a lot of bruises and cuts and pain in places you don't want there to be, but I think that the payoff was really good in the end.

KEVIN POLOWY: "Eternals" is drawing high praise for its fashion. People are loving the suits, saying it's maybe Marvel's most fashionable looks yet. Oftentimes, you hear Marvel actors complaining though about the costumes being so uncomfortable. How would you rate, sort of, the comfort factor of these costumes?

SALMA HAYEK: I was afraid of them just because I'm claustrophobic. And at the end of the day, it was a little bit stretchy and not as bad. But I'm going to tell you what it was the challenge, after COVID, we had to do one small re-shoot. And we're talking after COVID, after confinement for a long time where you ate and didn't exercise. That was me anyway. And I could get in. I couldn't get in anymore because, of course, it's not like really stretchy. So that was not fun. You do not want to go into those costumes if it doesn't fit like a glove.

LIA MCHUGH: I mean, it's super comfortable when you're standing still and not moving at all. When it comes to sitting down, it sort of cuts off your circulation a little bit. So what I would do is I would just like lay flat on the ground when I wanted to take a break a lot of the time. I mean, it wasn't terrible, it just sucked if you had to go to the bathroom.

LAUREN RIDLOFF: It was tight, I'm not going to lie. But it moved with me. And I had asked for a zipper so I could answer nature's call when I needed to. I heard that past suits didn't allow for that to happen. So they did put a zipper because I asked for it, and I really appreciated it.

DON LEE: It was OK. I mean, it's a little heavy for action scene but as long as it looks good, I mean--

ANGELINA JOLIE: Yeah. I think we had an easier time than some of the others in the MCU that maybe have to wear kind of-- we were definitely able to move and jump around, and that was important for us.

DON LEE: And it looks cool. I mean, that's all that matters, actually.

ANGELINA JOLIE: I kind of miss my suit now.

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