'Echo': Alaqua Cox Says Representing Multiple Minority Communities "Meant The World"

When Alaqua Cox was cast as the character Maya Lopez in the 2021 limited series “Hawkeye,” she knew she had made history as the first deaf character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What she didn’t know was that there she’d soon be starring in her own spin-off series, “Echo,” centered on the iconic Indigenous hero’s return to her hometown in Oklahoma. And, in an unexpected twist, was given the news while “Hawkeye” was in production.

READ MORE: “Echo” Review: Marvel’s Latest Is More Crime Series Than Traditional Superhero Show

“I had no idea that I would be getting my own freaking show in this big of a franchise. This is so crazy to me,” Cox shares. “I remember when we were filming ‘Hawkeye,’ it was right in the middle of it. One of the directors named Bert and Bertie, they both came up to me and they said, ‘Hey, guess what?’ And it seems serious. So they said, ‘You know that you’re getting your own show after Hawkeye.’ And I thought they were joking. I said, ‘No way,’ because it’s just so crazy to think about. I remember it was in the middle of ‘Hawkeye’ when we were filming, and just to jump from a supporting role to be number one on the call sheet, I am so forever grateful for this opportunity.”

Spearheaded by director Sydney Freeland, “Echo” allows viewers to learn more of Maya’s backstory including how she came to be under the tutelage of the notorious Kingpin (Vince D’Onofrio). During a conversation last month, she admits she was curious how production was going to tackle Maya being an amputee, as Cox is. She was relieved to discover they simply added it to Echo’s existing character traits.

“So we added weapons inside her hero’s leg as well,” Cox says. “So I loved seeing that authentic representation and the culture of the nation that we represented the Choctaw Nation as well. I thought it was so cool that they added the powwow scenes. We don’t usually see these on the screen. It’s just such an honor to be able to be part of the history-making moments like this.”

The series ends with a climactic confrontation between Echo and Kingpin. Cox says those scenes were very intense, emotional scenes. She notes, “It was hard to take that deep dive into those emotions, especially with Kingpin who does not use sign language with Maya. I don’t know when Kingpin’s line was ending. And so my interpreter and I came up with an idea to use a vibration device and then we would put that in my shirt and when Kingpin would be done with his lines, the interpreter would hit the remote and it would vibrate to let me know that it was my turn to start my line and start signing. But it was so hard because I was so focused on those emotionally intense scenes and the vibration would just come out of nowhere and it would distract me. Honestly, that was probably the hardest, most challenging part. But we made it through.”

Alaqua Cox, Echo

Despite months of bad buzz – for numerous reasons – “Echo” launched in a binge format on both Disney+ and Hulu on January 9. It was an unexpected streaming hit for Marvel Studios and Disney. The program even cracked the top 10 of Niesen’s overall streaming rankings with 731 million estimated minutes watched in its first week. And, perhaps more importantly was no. 1 on both streaming services. Cox says the response meant “the world to me.”

“Oh my gosh, I cannot believe that we got number one views on Disney Plus and Hulu,” Cox says. “And I’ll never forget the day when Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios, texted me. He was so proud of me and said ‘Congratulations,’ and I was like, “Oh my gosh, I got a text from the Big Boss.” I was so excited about it. But yeah, it really just means the world to me, and especially those being represented of the underrepresented communities, the deaf, Indigenous, and amputee community is so amazing to represent those communities.”

There have been rumors that “Echo’s” success has prompted Marvel Studios to focus more on “ground-level” characters with their ongoing television projects. Cox bluntly admits she hasn’t heard anything about Maya’s return, but “I would hope to be involved in more MCU stuff. Of course.” And as for as second season of “Echo,” well, “that would be amazing if that actually did happen.”

With Peak TV at its end, many in Hollywood are concerned that the small gains for minority representation will be lost. Cox is hopeful that “Echo’s” success can be a “starting point.” She notes, “All these movies and shows are helping open doors for these different kinds of diversities of people to enter into. I think it’s just a start. Hopefully, it will continue.”

“Echo” is available on Disney+