For Alaqua Cox, star of Marvel Studios series Echo, leading a highly anticipated show as an Indigenous and deaf actress has been “surreal.”
“It’s a huge step for Hollywood to be able to include this authentic representation of a deaf person. I’m portraying a deaf person, being a deaf person,” Cox, 26, who is a Menominee/Mohican, told Yahoo Entertainment through an ASL interpreter, “and an Indigenous person, being an Indigenous person. So ‘surreal’ is the only word I can think of.”
While critical reception of the latest entry in the MCU series, which debuted simultaneously on Disney+ and Hulu on Jan. 9, has been largely positive, Cox nevertheless felt pressure to make sure the series was well-received. After all, Echo has boasted several firsts for the brand, including a TV-MA rating, while also arriving on the heels of what’s been widely described as “superhero fatigue.”
“I definitely felt the pressure, absolutely,” Cox said, adding that this was her first lead role following her supporting turn on Marvel series Hawkeye. “But with the help of people on set and from Marvel themselves, they said, ‘You're going to do so great.’”
So great, in fact, that the show premiered at the top streaming spot on both Disney+ and Hulu, according to Deadline.
“I didn't even know that until [Marvel Studios president] Kevin Feige himself texted me that night and said, ‘Hey, congratulations on hitting No. 1 on Hulu and Disney+,’” Cox said. “I wanted to throw my phone across the room because that's how excited I was.”
That said, the actress, who is also an amputee and whose disability plays into her role of Choctaw anti-hero Maya Lopez, said she avoids looking at social media posts about herself and the series.
“If I go through any of the comments sections, that is a bad habit of mine,” she said. “I will get lost in it.”
Social media has certainly had its thoughts. Given the especially bright spotlight on the show ahead of its debut — with its mostly Indigenous cast and reimagined backstory from executive producer Sydney Freeland (Diné) — the response from the MCU fandom was not without its naysayers.
In fact, some fans took to the internet ahead of its premiere to describe the live-action version of Echo as “woke” and criticized Maya’s disabled Indigenous deaf character as prioritizing an agenda over storytelling or meaningfully expanding the Marvel universe.
“I think they're definitely wrong,” Cox said of the criticism. “They’re just not used to seeing a person of color and a person with a disability being a lead role in a movie or a TV show.”
She added, “I'm hoping that we can change the dynamic and the perspective of that and more persons of color and people with disabilities, can get these lead roles in the future.”
For the new mom — she gave birth to a son in October — Cox said she’s excited that he’ll eventually be able to see such diversity onscreen.
“It will let him know that he can go for anything he wants. If he wants to become an actor, a lawyer, whatever he wants to do,” she said. “I’m excited for him to be able to be born in this generation right now. This generation is full of inclusion and diversity, and it’s a great time for him to grow up.”
When it comes to her own future, Cox, who’s also a fan of Stranger Things and Euphoria, told Yahoo Entertainment that she’s weighing her options.
“I have gotten a few offers, but I haven’t decided which projects I want to do yet,” she said. “My goal is to play different kinds of roles. I want, I don’t know, like a comedy role, a suspense role. I don’t want to play the bad guy all the time.”
Echo is streaming on Disney+ and Hulu.