Alaqua Cox received an urgent message from a Marvel casting agent last year. In a few months she auditioned for the role of Maya Lopez in Marvel Studios’ Hawk Eye (which premieres Nov. 24 on Disney+) and they need her to log into Zoom right away.
“I saw about 12 people, including Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, clapping deafeningly when you waved both hands,” recalls Cox, 24. and they said, ‘Welcome to the Marvel family!’ “
Then Cox screamed and ran into the next room to tell her grandfather, then went to the side where the rest of her family lived and told them.
It was a surprising change for Cox, who grew up on the Menominee Indian Reservation in Wisconsin and whose acting experience included a background part in a high school play. In the years since, she’s worked at a nursing home and for Amazon and FedEx. Truth be told, Cox never thought of acting professionally. All that changed when friends sent her a casting call looking for a deaf Native American woman.
Sarah Finn, Marvel’s head of casting, noted that the team searched a lot for the role, wanting to find an authentic actor for the role.
Finn says: “Alaqua is one of a kind. “She went through a huge audition process. … We all supported her, from the very beginning. “
For the audition, Hawk Eye Chief screenwriter Jonathan Igla wrote the fake faces for Cox to read, and director Rhys Thomas helped prepare her as the process unfolded.
“We met quite a few people and I enjoyed reading books with Alaqua,” says Thomas. “I had to help her prepare and then introduce her to Kevin and the team. I am very grateful to them because they have gained confidence. She never acts [professionally] before, but they said, ‘Let’s do it.’ “
Now, she’s working alongside the likes of Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld, her new co-stars.
“They knew I was overwhelmed the first time on set and were very supportive,” Cox said of Hawk Eye the group put a new member under their wing.
Cox’s life changed again in December when Disney announced the casting to the public. She’s gone from unknown to someone on the radar of Marvel fans, who flood her social media. “I have so many notifications that I have to turn them off,” the actress said.
In the comics, her character, Maya, is the deaf superhero Echo, who has the ability to mimic motion, and on November 12, Disney confirmed a Echo series is in the works with Cox set to be the star. Marvel didn’t notify her Echo will happen until midway Hawk Eyeshoot.
“Hawk Eye was my first experience of acting. Will I now get a show of my own in the MCU? It’s wild,” said the actor.
One of four siblings, Cox is close to her family and has fond memories of growing up playing in the woods with quads and snowmobiles.
“We had a very fun and adventurous childhood, and the scars on our knees can prove it,” she said. She appreciates being able to help them in their new career.
Cox is part of this year’s wave of representation of the deaf in Hollywood, along with the award nominees CODA and other Marvel titles the eternal, which features Lauren Ridloff as the deaf superhero Makkari. While doing Hawk EyeCox (an amputee with prosthetics) spent time with Ridloff, whose husband, Douglas Ridloff, is an American Sign Language consultant on the eternal and Hawk Eye.
“I believe children deserve to see inclusion and authentic expression,” Cox said. “It will make children of all cultures and disabilities feel like our dreams are free of limits.”
This story first appeared in the November 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter. Click here to subscribe.
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