Gender-swapping can often generate plenty of debate and no shortage of vitriol among longtime supporters of the property in question, but as a Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster based on a relatively obscure comic book series, Eternals had much more leeway than many other projects.
In fact, a large number of people probably wouldn’t even have been able to name you a single member of the team before the feature film entered production, but that’s all set to change on November 5. Eternals is inspired by the source material but making its own deviations, most notably with the team’s origin story.
However, producer Nate Moore revealed during a set interview via ScreenRant the reasoning behind having Salma Hayek and Lia McHugh play Ajak and Sprite respectively, two characters typically depicted as male.
It was a bit of what narratively made sense and what would create dynamics that were interesting. Ajak in the comics was the conduit to the Celestials. He’s a bit of a surly character in publishing, but we felt like the conduit should be the leader and frankly there aren’t a lot of female leaders.
Ajak from a design standpoint did feel like was very much steeped in Aztec designs. We wanted somebody who was from that region to sort of pay homage to that, so in talking about it, it just made sense to gender swap her. Salma Hayek was amazing. Sprite, the boy who never grew up, is something you’ve seen a lot. The girl who never grew up seems to be a little bit of a fresher idea, so it’s just those creative conversations to create a balance that we thought was interesting.
In the comics, Kingo is a Japanese movie star and samurai-influenced swordsman, but that was also changed drastically when Pakistani-born Kumail Nanjiani landed the role, so it’s not as if Marvel or director Chloé Zhao were planning to be slavishly faithful to the printed page. It doesn’t really matter who plays which role, as long as Eternals manages to deliver the cosmic sci-fi spectacle we’ve all been waiting for since it was first hit with a yearlong delay as a result of the pandemic.