Brian Tyree Henry thought he should get ripped apart for the Eternals, recalls emotional conversation with Chloe Zhao about what it really means to be a Marvel hero


Through Eternals, Marvel Cinematic Universe fans have been introduced to a number of new and exciting heroes, who are set to play major roles in the vast franchise going forward. What’s even more exciting is that Chloé Zhao’s film broke new ground in representation in the superhero genre. While that certainly meant a lot to a particular audience, it was also a big deal for the actors themselves, as Brian Tyree Henry, who plays Phastos. Recently, the actor revealed that he felt like he should get ripped off to play the part. But that notion quickly left him after having a touching conversation with Zhao about his Marvel hero.

If there’s one thing we do know about comic book movies, it’s that actors usually end up in “superhero form” to play the role of a costumed protector. Marvel stars like Captain Marvelby Brie Larson and Thorby Chris Hemsworth are perfect examples. So it’s understandable that Brian Tyree Henry assumed this would be the case for his MCU debut. But at a recent press conference for the film that CinemaBlend attended, Henry revealed what his director told him that both surprised and thrilled him:

I remember the first time they were like, ‘So… we want you to be a superhero.’ I was like, ‘Cool. How much weight should I lose? ‘ Chloe said to me, ‘What are you talking about? We want you exactly as you are. 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.

Most would agree that there are many projects (aside from superhero movies) that want an actor with a particular look or body type for a given role. And as a result, many (especially marginalized groups) do not see themselves represented. There have been a few instances of true representation in the comic book genre over the past few decades, but the real change has only happened in the past few years. At this point, Brian Tyree Henry further recalled not seeing many superheroes who looked like him when he was growing up:

It made me become an 11 year old who watches these superpower movies, superhero movies, and never sees anyone like me reflected. … I really believe that moment started when I sat down with Chloe. This is unlike any feeling I have ever had.

The Atlanta The star also explained that he had always hoped that “one day there would be someone who would represent me and the way I am”. Well, he actually got to see that happen and, best of all, he turned out to be that source of representation himself. Additionally, Phastos also goes down in history as the first openly gay character in the MCU. Needless to say, the star’s performance could have an incredible impact when it comes to showcasing under-represented groups in the future.

The latest MCU feature breaks down barriers in several other ways as well. For example, it has the franchise’s first deaf superhero in Makkari by Lauren Ridloff. Salma Hayek is also the first Mexican-American actress to play a leading superhero role in a Marvel Studios production.

It took a while, but big business is finally making big strides in the variety of character types it offers its audiences. Hopefully this is a trend that will only continue over time. For now you can to verify Eternals in theaters now.

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