Following this week’s Loki finale, the next in upcoming Marvel TV shows is Echo, which will have Hawkeye’s Maya Lopez getting a full-fledged origin story. Alongside the support of some beloved Daredevil characters in the Echo cast list and very much leaning into being the first mature series from the MCU, the filmmakers behind the Marvel series had the chance to break some ground in representation with Alaqua Cox as a rare member of the Deaf community to lead her own action television show.
Celebrating Deaf Characters
CinemaBlend had the chance to be part of a special presentation at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, where Marvel showed off some early footage of the series ahead of its January premiere to select press followed by a Q&A with Echo head writer/director Sydney Freeland. When the filmmaker was asked about having Alaqua Cox at the center of the series as a Deaf actress playing a Deaf character, here’s what she had to say about it:
I think for myself, it was terrifying initially and then exhilarating to find out how do we portray this? How do we go about with a lead character that doesn't speak, you know? And, I think the more we got into it, the more excited we got. And so, our visual approach and our visual style is built around Alaqua Cox.
Freeland went on to explain that while many TV and film projects use a closeup shot of a character to frame their face, one notable way Echo reframed this to be inclusive of the Deaf community is for all of its closeups to include a place for the character’s hands for the use of American Sign Language (ASL). As Freeland continued:
ASL was something that was extremely important to everybody there and having the deaf perspective and experience represented. I'm also not deaf. so, one of the things we all did, is we [our department] took ASL classes. For myself it was important that I just had some basic language where I could talk to her and look her in the eye and say ‘that was nice, again’ or ‘more emotional’ just some basic words for her. And, I think it had this sort of positive reinforcement cycle. The more we sort of took ASL and the more conversations I had with Alaqua, the more it kind of influenced our visual approach. And so initially I was like, we have to be very stylistic and how can we sustain a six minute scene with two characters that don't say anything? And, do we have to cut around stuff? Do we have to protect her? And the answer to all that is no. We don't. Our visual approach is that we want to embrace the ASL.
This approach to Echo could be seen in the footage CinemaBlend witnessed, which as a whole had us particularly excited for Daredevil fans to witness the series. Echo will not only implement ASL throughout the show, but it really feels like the entire project is in service of Alaqua Cox’s Maya Lopez and her story, which really explores the intersection between her being in the Deaf community, being a Native American, and an amputee with a prosthetic leg. Those aspects of her identity are strengths to her story, but not the most interesting things about her. There’s a sense that Echo is taking an authentic and complicated approach to this Marvel character.
Echo’s first trailer offers an exciting sneak preview on what to expect. Check it out:
Maya Lopez has some deep connections with Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk/Kingpin and her story clearly has much more to it then we’ve seen in Hawkeye. Echo is a five-episode series that will premiere all in one go on both Disney+ and Hulu on January 10.