Chloé Zhao Touts Sersi in ‘Eternals’ as ‘Nuanced Female Superhero’ the Genre Rarely Sees

Gemma Chan stars in "Eternals" as Sersi, a character Zhao says will "invite viewers to rethink what it means to be heroic."
Richard Madden as Ikaris and Gemma Chan as Sersi in "Eternals"

Chloé Zhao isn’t the kind of director you’d associate with Marvel blockbusters, which is why her MCU debut “Eternals” is bound to shake up the comic book genre. The “Nomadland” Oscar winner is already touting one game-changing “Eternals” asset: Gemma Chan’s superhero Sersi. Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige already confirmed Chan’s character is the closest thing “Eternals” has to a lead character, which now makes sense considering Zhao had long been passionate about creating a different kind of female superhero.

“It has always been a passion for me to create a nuanced female superhero that is rarely seen in this genre,” Zhao recently told Vogue UK. “Gemma was very interested in this idea as well and took on the challenge. She is a great actress. Very intelligent and brave. She brought a beautiful sense of gentleness, compassion and vulnerability to Sersi that I believe will invite viewers to rethink what it means to be heroic.”

“First of all, I never expected to be back in the MCU,” added Chan, who starred as Minn-Erva in “Captain Marvel.” “So that was a surprise. And then to be working with an East Asian female director — I would never have dreamt of that, even just a few years ago.”

Chan continued, “Sersi is not your typical superhero: she’s not necessarily the best fighter, she doesn’t have the most obviously impressive powers. The main thing is she’s an empath. She has a connection with humans, and with the world and the earth. That is her strength, so I leant into that.”

As for the rest of “Eternals,” the superhero movie features an ensemble cast that includes Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, Don Lee, and Kit Harington. The film takes place after the events of “Avengers: Endgame” and centers on a group of immortal aliens who have lived on Earth for over 7,000 years as they reunite to protect humanity from the villainous Deviants.

“Jack Kirby and his imagination, his incredible work, is really the foundation of it,” Zhao said earlier this year about developing her own Marvel movie. “On top of that, there is what Marvel Studios has built, this incredible journey they have going on. And then on top of that is me as a fan of the MCU. And then, me as a fan of the genre, but also growing up with sci-fi and manga and fantasy films. And how can we have this big melting pot and cook up something that may just taste a little bit different? It was just an exciting thing; all of us went in wanting to do that.”

“Eternals” opens in theaters November 5.

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