The Quick Q&A: Dig Deep with the Stars of 'Eternals'

Join in on our Q&A with the stars behind the new characters, and their emotional story in the latest MCU epic, "Eternals."

Jesse Conner

By Jesse Conner

The Quick Q&A: Dig Deep with the Stars of Eternals

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

As we approach the latest evolution in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we're also days away from getting lots of new heroes in "Eternals." The stars of the long-awaited superhero film include Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Richard Madden, Gemma Chan, Kumail Nanjiani, Kit Harington, Brian Tyree Henry, Don Lee, Lauren Ridloff, and Lia McHugh, among others. We were lucky enough to attend Disney's virtual press conference where the cast talked about their characters, their director Chloe Zhao, and what being in this film means to them. Here's our quick Q&A with the "Eternals" stars. And be sure to check out the new film in theaters this weekend!

'Eternals' Q&A: Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Richard Madden, Gemma Chan, Kumail Nanjiani, Kit Harington, Brian Tyree Henry, Don Lee, Lauren Ridloff, & Lia McHugh

Q: With Thena, the goddess of war, we could see how she finds strength in her survivor story, and how she's able solve the wars within herself. Was that part of what attracted you to the character?

Angelina Jolie: I was attracted to this project for many reasons. I am a fan of the MCU, and a big fan of Chloe. Then, when they first talked to me about the story, it was the cast. It was the idea of what this family would be. And I just wanted to be a part of this family before I even knew very much about who I was gonna play. As I learned about Thena, and that's one of the special things that Chloe brings to this, is she's known for bringing reality to a film. To somebody's true self. So, a lot of us were cast to bring out something from our own lives, something within ourselves, that maybe we weren't even aware of. And then let it live and let it grow within the film. So, she is maybe the most fantastic (character) I've ever played in a superhero. And yet, my children said she thought it was the most like me.

Q: You're on a team full of heroes, yet your character seemed the most reluctant to be a hero in this story. And then, she goes on a journey where she eventually embraces what she can do on this team. How did you approach showing that growth within the character?

Gemma Chan: Yes, Sersi is a superhero, but her powers are not the most obvious or the flashiest. She's not the best fighter. But what she does have is empathy, and a real affinity for humankind and the earth. And she's a free spirit. I loved that. That was one of the enjoyable things about the film, was going on that journey with that character. It's kind of her coming-of-age, even though she's probably thousands of years old. She learns to trust herself and to grow into her own power. And that was a really interesting thing to explore.

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

Q: With your character, he's sort of caught between love and loyalty. How interesting was it to play a character that's going through a lot of internal conflict throughout this film?

Richard Madden: I really loved it. I'm kind of used to playing lovers often. And to play someone who's such a soldier, but is completely driven by love, all his decisions are driven by love, and it's actually him that's wrestling with that. I'm used to characters who are very focused on their love, and that comes out. And with Ikaris, it's the opposite of that. He's kind of trying to bury that love because it gets in the way of his duty and he's constantly wrestling with the two. And that's kind of what made it really interesting for me to pull out that relationship with all the characters from Sprite to Sersi and work out what this relationship is when you're trying to stick to duty, but your feelings get in the way. It's this eternal soldier wrestling that.

Q: What does it mean to you to be representing Latinos in "Eternals" as a Mexican superhero, especially as a leader and maternal figure?

Salma Hayek: It's a really humbling experience because I dream big. And if I hadn't, I wouldn't have gotten here at all. But in my big dreams, I wanted to be a superhero. And I wanted to work with the best directors in the world and have big blockbuster movies. And also, movies that are art, that are made from a very deep place with great directors. You cannot ask for more. But it didn't happen that much for me. And so, you fight for it in your 20s, in your 30s, and in your 40s. And you go, "Oh, screw them, they don't get it. They missed out. I would have been great in the art films. I would have been a great superhero and they didn't see it. Screw them. I'm going to do something else. Let's have a baby." It's very humbling when in the middle of your 50s, a brilliant director gives you the opportunity to do both. To do something that comes from a deep place. That it's also a big blockbuster. I was wrong. Everything is possible.

Q: How did you prepare to showcase all that amazing Bollywood swagger. And was that dancing harder than not going "pew-pew" with the finger guns?

Kumail Nanjiani: Oh, by far the hardest thing was the dancing. I'm going to put Chloe on the spot. I can't swear, so put in a swear word here. Chloe lied to me. When we first talked about the movie, she was like, "There's a Bollywood dance sequence." And I was like, "Chloe, I don't think I can do that." She's like, "Okay, we'll make it a Bollywood action scene." And then as soon as I got to London, she's like, "It's a dance sequence." And I was like, "Get me a dance teacher right now then." And Nileeka who did the choreography was wonderful. Worked with me for months and months to do that because it was so outside my comfort zone. Ultimately, for me, all that came down to trust. Just in meeting Chloe, I was like, "Oh, she's not going to let me suck in this thing." Because I completely trusted her. I didn't understand it until I watched the movie, but I knew enough to trust her. So, for me, I was like, "Yeah, this doesn't feel like something I would do, but if Chloe thinks I can do it... Let's do it." Finger guns and Bollywood together.

Q: Phastos is so interesting because he's the man who can think of anything. But for every nudge where he pushes humanity forward, he also pushes them towards possible destruction. And the thing we don't see is the conversations you had with Chloe. Because at one point, he feels fed up with things. But when we find him in the present day, he's probably, more than anyone, committed to humanity. What were the conversations that brought him from that place of despair to where we see him in the present day?

Brian Tyree Henry: It was amazing. It came down to trust. I truly wholeheartedly trusted Chloe. The thing that really attracted me to this part was that I just think about all the images of black men out there and how we are portrayed. And what I love the most about Phastos is that one, he's an ancestor. So Phastos predates everything and had to probably go through all these things, which could actually make someone lose faith in humanity very quickly. And what I really love the most about Phastos is that through all of that, him being eternal, him never being able to die, he still chose love. And it just really resonated with me. And so, what I love the most about "Eternals" is that Chloe and (producer) Nate (Moore) really just instilled that power back in me again. I remember the first time that they were like, "So, we want you to be a superhero." I was like, "Cool. How much weight do I have to lose?" And like, Chloe was like, "What are you talking about? We want you exactly as you are." And to be to be a black man, to have someone look at you and say, "We want you exactly the way you are," is unlike anything I've ever felt.

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / © Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

Q: Your character seems to be okay with all of the crazy superhero stuff. Where do you think he gets that quiet confidence to deal with the insanity?

Kit Harington: He's a nice guy. I feel in this I'm representing humanity. I felt that from the beginning, I had to represent something that was worth saving. And I think the hope is that Dane comes across as a nice, standup guy. And one thing I really respect him for is that a man flies out of the sky and shoots lasers out of his eyes and steals his girlfriend, and he's kind of cool with it. So, yeah, that's Dane. And it was an odd movie for me because I come in at the start and sort of introduce the movie. And then the movie goes its own direction with these wonderful people and this wonderful cast. So, I felt separate from them, but I think that the advantage of that is that you do have a glimpse into the humans at the start. And you get a glimpse into who it is that these guys are really trying to save.

Q: The thing I loved most with your character was her bond with Druig, played by Barry Keoghan. Your characters bonded through impatience. He was impatient about his lack of ability to do what he could do, and your impatience about the fact that no one can move as fast as you. How did those two characters come together in impatience?

Lauren Ridloff: Well, first of all, I want to say that I think the relationship between Makkari and Druig really comes as a surprise for actually several people here on stage, right? Because within the scripts, when you first go through it, it wasn't really something that was so apparent. But Chloe, under her brilliant direction, wanted us to imply that there was a lot more to Druig and Makkari. And I feel like that what actually brought them together is that they're both about improvement and they both have a lot of power. They're very powerful individuals. And they're told to hold themselves back. And I think that they're mischievous, and they also have fun.

Q: You've been on so many sets and been a part of so many incredible productions. But that first day walking onto that Marvel set, to know that this is about to be a movie that is literally gonna go around the globe in ways that people can't even think of. Can you take us to that day for you and tell us what it felt like?

Don Lee: Yeah, well, I've starred in and produced many different films. Over a hundred films over the last 20 years. This was the biggest scale movie I've ever been in. One day, I got to set, and nothing was there. And then, a few weeks later, I went to the set, and they had made this forest. And I was like, "Is this the right place I'm in?" I thought I went the wrong way. I was so impressed about all of the great, diverse cast from all over the world. I was always a big fan of Marvel, and Kevin here. And I was a big fan of Chloe too. Everybody was so nice. All our crew was so nice too. Thanks to Angie. We worked together a lot because we were looking out for each other. We had these two warriors always looking out for each other. This was the first time I met her. And then we didn't have enough time to rehearse. So, we had to just shoot right away. But it was so comfortable. It was like we were old friends that finally got to work together. So, I was so happy.

Q: The one thing I will say with Sprite is that she has to keep her cards close to her vest throughout this film. What were your conversations with Chloe about how to keep that through line...?

Lia McHugh: Yeah, there's a lot of layers to Sprite. In every scene, she goes through a lot of emotions, but she expresses them in a sort of sassy, temperamental way, like an old lady would. Chloe said I should watch Maggie Smith. And sort of be like an old lady. But also have the wonderment of a child, and sort of want to be part of this world but can't. So, she deals with a lot of emotional stuff that Eternals don't really.

Jesse Conner

Jesse is a writer and content manager for Noovie. When he's not working, he's on the beach playing volleyball.

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