Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness delivered impressive opening-weekend numbers, grossing $185 million domestically and $450 million globally. Benedict Cumberbatch leads Marvel’s latest blockbuster as Dr. Stephen Strange but the sequel wouldn’t be what it is without his supporting cast, including Benedict Wong and Xochitl Gomez. The actor plays Wong, the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth-616, who is also Strange’s mentor and part of his team. Gomez plays a Mexican-American teenager named America Chavez, who has the ability to travel between dimensions in the multiverse and is running away from Wanda Maximoff who is attempting to steal her power. Gomez was just 14 years old when she landed this role, and she is already learning what it means to be representing various marginalized communities through this character. America has a few lines in Spanish in the opening scene for Multiverse of Madness, and Gomez tells Complex that meant a lot to her father who doesn’t speak English, and was the one who helped her perfect those lines.
The addition of America’s storyline, specifically the part that she has two moms and is a member of the LGBTQ+ community herself, caused some pushback for the film. Certain regions asked Disney to remove the scene where viewers meet her parents. The studio refused to do so and the film was banned in countries like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, and Oman. Cumberbatch told Complex how disappointing that was but how proud he is of adding this character to the film, regardless of the opposition. And those who have seen the film may agree that America added a new and much-needed layer to this film and is a great addition into the MCU. We caught up with Wong and Gomez ahead of the movie’s release for a brief chat about how they prepared for their intense action scenes, representing their communities and diversity in the MCU.
Both of your performances were amazing. How did you both physically prepare for this role?
Xochitl Gomez: Well, I did do lots of training when I got my call back. I was like, “Oh my gosh, I might have a chance at doing a test audition.” So, I trained for a month every other day for hours, so that then I could maybe get the chance to do a test, that I could blow their minds and it might have worked. [laughs] Then of course, once I was in England I ran every day, and I did some strengthening exercises. That was fun.
What about you, Benedict?
Benedict Wong: I did some training whilst I was in Australia, this thing that is called Functional Patterns with Shannon Hegarty. I trained with him, and did some kind of sword work. It was quite grueling, at times it was very, very painful. But I’m very pleased with the action shots.
XG: Yeah. It looks so good. You looked so cool.
For you Benedict, Asian Pacific American Heritage month is in May and for you, Xochitl, America represents so much to so many people, and so many cultures. What does it mean for you both of you to carry the responsibility of playing these roles and bringing them to the Marvel Universe?
BW: It means a lot, it’s a real honor. I think Marvel now continually, their mantra is to represent the unrepresented and voice the voiceless with the platforms and opportunities that they offer. We get to see things like Shang-Chi and how that ripples and resonates with people and people feel seen and they’re allowed to look up and have heroes. That happens with Ms. Marvel, with Moon Knight, and LGBTQ characters like America Chavez.
XG: Yeah. It is kind of crazy how many people feel represented by America being on the screen. I’m just so happy that Marvel chose to have America in the MCU, and especially where she has such an important place in this movie. I feel so proud, honestly. I’m happy that they’re also doing Moon Knight and Echo and Ms. Marvel, I mean they’re really growing. I’m very proud of them.
There’s a little bit of Spanish in the movie. When you read that in the script, what did that feel like for you?
XG: I was really excited. My dad doesn’t speak English. So, I ran over the lines with him in Spanish and it was really, really heartwarming to see how excited he got when he realized that I was going to be speaking Spanish in the film.
It was one of those bonding moments that I won’t forget because he helped me kind of choose those lines and the intonation and stuff, and ways to make it actually really funny. It’s one of those things that I look back at and I’m like, “That is a core memory.”
BW: That’s lovely.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now in theaters.