'Echo' Stars Promise ‘Emotionally Violent’ Story In Marvel's First TV-MA Series

Alaqua Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio say Marvel’s new series will be unlike anything fans have seen before.

Alaqua Cox (left) and Vincent D'Onofrio (right) in Marvel Studios' 'Echo'
Marvel Studios
Alaqua Cox (left) and Vincent D'Onofrio (right) in Marvel Studios' 'Echo'

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to get darker—a lot darker.

Though the superhero stalwart struggled mightily last year with mixed reviews across a variety of projects, Marvel Studios has plans to shake things up in 2024 with Echo, its first ever series that's rated TV-MA. 

“It’s going to be totally different compared to any mature TV show or non-mature TV show,” Alaqua Cox, the up-and-coming star of Echo, tells Complex. “It's going to be very intense.”

The series follows the events after 2021's Hawkeye, with Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox) on the run from Wilson Fisk’s (Vincent D’Onofrio) criminal empire. It’s loaded with violence, something that Marvel fans have been desperately asking for, but the show doesn’t limit itself to just gory visuals. 

“They wanted to tell a grounded story,” says D’Onofrio. “One that is emotionally violent and physically violent.” To D’Onofrio, as he so simply explained: “It feels right.”

We caught up with the two stars ahead of the release to talk about creating Marvel’s first mature-rated series, the direction of the MCU with the new Spotlight banner, balancing blood with an emotional journey, and much more. 

(This interview has been edited in length for clarity.)

Marvel Studios' trailer for 'Echo' series

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How does it feel to take on the leading role in a Marvel project? How did you find out the project was happening?

ALAQUA COX: It's still so wild to me. When casting told me that I got the role, they said, “We need you to come on the Zoom call ASAP.” And I was very suspicious. I did join the Zoom call, and I saw all of the head honchos of Marvel.

Kevin Feige was there and everybody was doing the Deaf celebration clap. They said, “Welcome to the Marvel family,” and I knew right then and there that I got the role. 

I want to talk specifically about Marvel's Spotlight banner. What was the most exciting thing to you about this new focus?

VINCENT D’ONOFRIO: It's the writing, the potential of the writing, and what I've been able to do for Echo, the writing of that show. And now moving forward into Daredevil: Born Again, it's very exciting. 

And I think it's the right path. I think there's some clever people over there at Marvel that are making good choices.

"There's some clever people over there at Marvel that are making good choices."

What are the main things that set Echo apart from other superhero projects in the MCU? 

AC: What's exciting about this series is it's going to be so full of action and authenticity, and we are portraying true Deaf, Indigenous characters. Representing it in the show is a huge milestone and it's going to be such a special show, and I'm so excited for everybody to see it.

VD: I think that the storytelling of this show is amazing. You have this actress, Alaqua Cox, who's brand-new. Her career is brand-new. People see her as brand-new. And she brings this amazing Native character forward. She's so impressive. 

But the actual storytelling is also very grounded. It's her dealing with the pull of her ancestry and the pull of this kind of father figure that sort of raised her, so she's caught in between that. And when it comes to her becoming Maya, becoming the character of Echo, it's incredible. It's an incredible journey for her character. 

And I think when it comes to what's going on between her and Wilson Fisk, it's this kind of father-daughter, very, very intense emotional relationship, so it has this kind of domestic feel to it. But at the same time, you're dealing with good and evil in a kind of iconic Marvel way, too. 

We had some incredible scenes, really intense scenes. I think that the audience is going to love that and relate to it.

"You're dealing with good and evil in a kind of iconic Marvel way."

What does the TV-MA rating mean for this show, and what are you excited for fans to experience? 

AC: That just means it's going to be more intense, more violence is going to be involved, more blood, more grittiness. It's going to be totally different compared to any mature TV show or non-mature TV show. It's going to be very intense.

"It's going to be totally different."

Do you think the TV-MA rating will be a focus for Marvel projects going down the road, or is this kind of just a testing phase?

AC: I hope that they'll follow this show's lead. I think it would be cool to see more intense things and have more TV-MA ratings on Disney+.

VD: That's a better question for [director] Sydney Freeland and the writers about the overall plan at Marvel; they could answer that better than me. 

But I do think that they wanted to tell a grounded story. They wanted Maya's story to be an intense one, one that is emotionally violent and physically violent. I think they wanted to introduce you to her Native American world and her life and ancestry. And I think that they accomplished all that there. 

And then there's this kind of cool aspect. I saw a fight scene the other day, reminiscent of a Daredevil-long fight scene in the original series. And it is just amazing. It's a very gratifying fight. It's really, really tough, really rough, and I think when people see that, they're going to be amazed. I think they're going to be reminded that this is a different thing that's going on now.

And I don't know, it feels right. It feels right to go from Echo into Daredevil: Born Again.

As a performer, what was the most rewarding aspect of bringing Echo to life, and how do you hope the character resonates with the audiences?

AC: I would say authenticity is the most simple answer, and that's what resonates. I am a character that signs and I don't use a voice at all, and in some scenes, the volume will go silent so the audience can get that sense of a Deaf perspective without any of the noise. 

So I feel like watching this, people will see what it's like from a Deaf perspective.

What was the most challenging thing for you to prepare for this role? How did the TV-MA rating affect your approach?

AC: Probably translating the lines from written English into American Sign Language and acting at the same time. Because for me, I grew up using something called Signing Exact English or SEE. The grammar, the structure, the word order is all different. But acting with the ASL incorporation in that was a challenge for me, but it was very a fun experience to have.

VD: It definitely felt while shooting that I'm bringing forward the intensity and also the sympathy that I was able to bring forward in the Netflix series. I think you have to see it's important for the audience to see my character behave normally as anybody would in a relationship so that he's able to love, he's able to have trepidation in his life, like all human beings do, and joy and sorrow and shame and all of those things that we all deal with. 

At the same time, he is very, very dangerous when he doesn't get his way. And that's very much like the feel in the original series. So when I was performing Echo, I felt like we were bringing my character forward with that same feeling.

The Marvel fanbase is known for its enthusiasm. How have you been navigating the anticipation and excitement surrounding the Echo release?

AC: I've honestly just been feeling so wonderful. I'm navigating it by remembering that there's all an Indigenous cast and it feels authentic and it feels more like home. I was able to act alongside them because I grew up on a reservation and it felt like I was home. So when I was on set, it felt like seeing all these Indigenous people around me that were like me.

It was just very nice to have that. I was able to feel like home while I was working.

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