SPOILER ALERT! This post contains details from the finale of Marvel Studios’ Echo.
“Generations are echoing, reaching out to us at a time when we need them most.”
More from Deadline
Those are the words of wisdom imparted on Maya Lopez [Alaqua Cox] by her grandmother Chula [Tantoo Cardinal] as she grapples with how to relinquish herself from the pain of her past and embrace the parts of herself she was never able to after she and her father were exiled from their reservation.
It’s one of several scenes in the final two episodes of Marvel’s Echo that pack an emotional punch, cracking Maya open until she’s no longer the heartless assassin audiences first met in Hawkeye.
Cox had never acted before she was cast as Maya, so Echo represents more than just her first time as No. 1 on a call sheet. It was also the first time she’d been able to explore those emotional depths of a character and decide the kind of actor she wanted to be.
Maya is a deaf, Indigenous amputee, putting a ton of pressure on Marvel and Cox to nail the character and her emotional journey.
In the interview below, Cox broke down the process of coming into her own on the set of Echo and where she’s hoping this character will go next.
DEADLINE: After first playing Maya in Hawkeye, what were you most excited about in terms of expanding her story in Echo?
ALAQUA COX: Maya can do stunts. Maya is an amputee, and she’s deaf. And usually that’s looked down upon on — disabled people can’t do this, can’t do that. But I’m excited to show the world that Maya is a badass, and she can beat those top level bad guys. She could go up against Daredevil and Kingpin, and I’m really excited for the viewers to see that.
DEADLINE: I heard that you wanted to do your own stunts. Can you talk about the process of learning how to do them?
COX: I did start training for about five days a week, for probably like two hours, sometimes three hours a day. And it was a lot…different from Hawkeye, [when] I probably did stunt training for maybe two days a week for an hour, but now being a main character, that makes so much sense. I really enjoyed it. I am not complaining because the stunt team on Echo was so great, and they were so easy to get along with. I always liked doing physical kind of things as well. I was always in physical activity growing up. I have an older brother, we’re about 15 or 16 months apart from each other, and we wrestled all the time. We played one-on-one basketball in our backyard at my dad’s house. So I always loved doing physical activity. I kind of think my older brother prepared me for this role, even though we had no idea at the time that we would ever even be preparing for this kind of thing. I also had a personal trainer who was a deaf personal trainer, and that was so amazing. The time went by so much faster because we were able to communicate one-on-one. We don’t have to use an interpreter when we’re communicating with each other to make the process a little longer. I really enjoyed working with a personal trainer to help me become Maya.
DEADLINE: What was the most challenging part of those physical stunts?
COX: Learning the new choreography. I love learning choreography. Not last minute though, right before we shoot. That did happen sometimes. They would say, ‘We have to switch the choreography. This will look better.’ But it was on the day…and I would say, ‘Right now? In five minutes? We’re about to shoot the scene.’ And they would say ‘Nope, we got to do it now.’ So we had to learn some choreography last minute. I’d say that’s the most difficult part.
DEADLINE: Your scenes with Vincent D’Onofrio are so layered. How was it to work with him more closely and develop those interactions between Maya and Kingpin?
COX: It was very tough, honestly, because Maya is such a complicated and emotional person that has so many layers. I had a meeting with the director, talking about my specific emotions, and I had my acting coach. We’d about her emotions. Why is she so full of rage, and why is she so revengeful? She’s just obsessed with this revenge. I would look on YouTube videos of some other characters that would do these fighting scenes, trying to study them and getting motivated to do my own fighting scenes and portray it in my character. I wanted to feed off of their emotions and make my own. I’m trying to think about what Maya went through to get these emotions, and that was how I was able to become Maya. It was very hard, especially with Kingpin, because we always had a lot of intense scenes together. But I did have a vibration device that I would have to put in my shirt. When Kingpin and I were talking, he does not use sign language. So I did not know when his lines were over. So when he would finish his lines, the interpreter would hit the button, and it would give me a vibration and would let me know that his line was done and it was my turn. When I felt that buzzer, it would take me out of my emotions that I was feeling for that one second. So I had to ignore it, but also at the same time, thank God that this worked and it was able to flow much better.
DEADLINE: One of my favorite scenes in the entire series is when Maya gets to see her mom, and Taloa helps heal her from the pain she’s endured all these years. Can you talk about filming that scene?
COX: I didn’t like that day. I remember I woke up for work that day, and I was already sad… then I realized we had the emotional scene that day. How I do become emotional is I have to think of sad things. That’s how I’m able to shed those tears. So all day, I had to just stay sad. We arrived on set, we got ready… the tears were flowing. I’d think about all the sad events that have happened in my life in order to portray that scene. So it was just a horrible time. But once the scene was over, I immediately got happy again and was able to let go of all of those sad thoughts. That was a very tough day, getting that scene.
DEADLINE: What do you hope reconnecting with her family will do for her?
COX: I hope that she doesn’t go back to New York City. I really hope not, personally, because it’s just a horrible place for her to be [with] all those traumatic memories she has growing up, now that she’s able to reconnect and open up more with her blood-related family, and she realized that they never left her side. She was gone for so many years. She ignored so many texts and phone calls and letters but the second she got back to Oklahoma, they wanted her right back. They were not resistant at all. It makes her realize ‘Wow, my family has always been there for me.’ I want Maya to reconnect with her family and get rid of New York and what happened in in New York and Kingpin, but we’ll see what happens.
DEADLINE: In terms of how she might connect to the larger MCU in the future, are there any characters you’d like to see Maya interact with?
COX: Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if Maya joined the Avengers. I think it would be so amazing to cross paths with other superheroes. I would love that. I think would be very fun. I think be great to work with Mark Ruffalo, the Hulk. I love him as an actor and a person, because Mark is a huge advocate for Indigenous women. And he’s from Wisconsin, and I’m from Wisconsin. So we have that in common. But Mark is just an amazing advocate for women, and I think it’d be amazing to work with him. I think that we would have a lot of things to talk about. I can just imagine those conversations already.
DEADLINE: What about outside the MCU? What other roles are you looking to take on?
COX: Oh my gosh, I keep getting offered all these bad guy roles. And honestly, I want to try something different. I want to try maybe a comedy role or suspense movie. I would love to be able to play a role in a horror film. Those are my favorite kind of films. I loved watching them growing up.
All episodes of Echo are streaming on Disney+ and Hulu.
Best of Deadline