How Marvel Decided Which Eternals Characters To Gender-Swap – Screen Rant

Eternals producer Nate Moore explains why Marvel decided to gender-swap the characters Ajak and Sprite, who are played by Salma Hayek and Lia McHugh.
A producer of Eternals has explained why Marvel decided to gender-swap two of the characters from the original comics. Eternals is based on a less well-known series of comics about a team of immortal beings who were created by the Celestials during their experiments on early humankind 7,000 years ago. The film, which stars Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Don Lee, Lia McHugh, and Lauren Ridloff, will come to theaters on November 5.
Most of the characters in Eternals will be recognizable to comic book readers. They include Ikaris and Sersi, the on-again-off-again couple played by Chan and Madden, and Thena, a skilled warrior played by Jolie. However, the characters Ajak and Sprite, who are played by Hayek and McHugh respectively, were originally male in the comics.
Related: Why Eternals Needs To Be Longer Than Infinity War
During Screen Rant‘s visit to the set of Eternals along with a group of reporters, producer Nate Moore explained a bit more about Marvel’s decision-making process to gender-swap the two characters. He said they were finding a balance between what “narratively made sense” and what unearthed “dynamics that were interesting.” Moore also discussed the importance of including a female hero in Ajak. With Sprite, he talked about avoiding a well-known story trope. Check out Moore’s full quote below:
It was a bit of what narratively made sense and what would create dynamics that were interesting. Ajak in the comics was the conduit to the Celestials. He’s a bit of a surly character in publishing, but we felt like the conduit should be the leader and frankly there aren’t a lot of female leaders. Ajak from a design standpoint did feel like was very much steeped in Aztec designs. We wanted somebody who was from that region to sort of pay homage to that, so in talking about it, it just made sense to gender swap her. Salma Hayek was amazing.
Sprite, the boy who never grew up, is something you’ve seen a lot. The girl who never grew up seems to be a little bit of a fresher idea, so it’s just those creative conversations to create a balance that we thought was interesting.
It is important to note that the “gender-swapping” that occurs is only a change from the main timeline of the comics. Since the characters are immortal beings, they’re capable of being reborn as a different sex every thousand years or so. In fact, Ajak herself was originally created by the Celestials as a female Eternal before changing to a male being at some point before the comics storyline picked up.
Eternals has already been lauded for its representation, featuring Marvel’s first gay and deaf superheroes in Phastos and Makkari. It also comes on the heels of important films like Black Widow and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. This is both part of Marvel’s own internal initiative and also because, in the case of Eternals, diversity is a fundamental part of these particular comics. As Angelina Jolie recently stated, “if you’re going to have Eternals and they’re going to blend into the Earth across the globe, they have to be on the globe.” Essentially, in order to properly represent humanity as a whole, it just makes sense that the team should be more balanced along the gender spectrum. It will be exciting for audiences to see Hayek and McHugh’s takes on their characters and how they shake up the team’s dynamic on screen.
Next: The MCU Just Proved The Biggest Problem With The Eternals
Brennan (he/him) is a senior writer at Screen Rant and a millennial who knows more about 80’s slasher films than he has any right to. A former host of the Attack of the Queerwolf podcast, Brennan has been writing and podcasting about pop culture (especially horror films) for a decade. Brennan’s interests also include the Muppets, bubblegum pop from around the world, and reading (especially Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, the manga of Junji Ito, and novels of magical realism). His favorite film directors are Wes Craven and Pedro Almodóvar.

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