Marvel has made major moves in the name of progress in the last 18 months, introducing black and female leads into its repertoire via blockbuster hits Black Panther and Captain Marvel, respectively. And according to reports, there’s a very real chance that the next frontier Marvel is looking to tackle is LGBTQ+ representation on the big screen, likely with an LGBTQ+ character, played by a gay actor, in the lead for its next planned film, The Eternals.
The Eternals centers around an ancient race of super-powered beings who gained their strengths after being experimented on by an alien race called The Celestials. Hercules is rumored to be the main character and, if so, would be the first openly gay character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Angelina Jolie has been linked to the project, and rumor has it that she will play Sersei, an Eternal who has molecular and atomic manipulation techniques.)
“In the canon, [Valkyrie] is bisexual,” Thompson told Variety in a recent red carpet interview. “You see her with women and men, so that was my intention in playing her. Obviously, at the forefront of most of these stories is not typically their romantic life. They have big stakes, like saving the world, so that tends to sort of trump.”
The key to writing a successful lead character who also happens to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community, journalist Gabrielle Geisinger told Newsbeat, is to make sure that the people behind the scenes are diverse as well.
“When you’re developing a character that is LGBTQ+, do the research, get writers who know what that experience is like,” she said, giving a nod to a much-talked-about scene in Marvel’s recently released Avengers: Endgame.
The scene that Geisinger is referring to is one in which an unnamed man speaks up at a support group meeting for people grieving the loved ones they lost at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. The man opens up about going on his first date since losing his male partner. It’s a small, subtle moment that, incredibly, marks the first introduction of an openly gay character in a Disney/Marvel movie.
Directors Joe and Anthony Russo told Deadline that the inclusion was purposeful — so much so that Joe played the role himself.
“Representation is really important,” Joe told Deadline. “It was important to us as we did four of these films, we wanted a gay character somewhere in them. We felt it was important that one of us play him, to ensure the integrity and shot it is so important to the filmmakers that one of us is representing that. It is a perfect time, because one of the things that is compelling about the Marvel Universe moving forward is its focus on diversity.”