Chaske Spencer commends Echo for ‘beautifully handled’ Native American representation

The new Marvel series lands on Disney+ in full on Wednesday, 10 January

Chaske Spencer (Emily Assiran)
Chaske Spencer speaks to Yahoo UK about how Echo 'beautifully handled' the representation onscreen. (Emily Assiran)

Echo brings a new chapter to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and as the first series with a Native American lead and predominantly Indigenous cast it marks a huge milestone for representation, which actor Chaske Spencer tells Yahoo UK was "very beautifully handled" in the series.

Centred on deaf anti-hero Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox), who was first introduced as a villain in Hawkeye, the series is darker than previous Disney+ outings but is one that was made with love by both the cast and crew. It shows a different side to Maya, who returns to her hometown in Oklahoma after shooting her adoptive uncle Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio) at the end of Hawkeye but isn't yet free of him.

Spencer takes on the role of Maya's uncle Henry "Black Crow" Lopez who, like her, has ties to Fisk's criminal organisation. The role was something that Spencer saw as a challenge, as it presented him with the opportunity to play a very different character to those he's portrayed in the past and let him "see what [he] could explore with that character".

Maya, her family and community belong to the Choctaw Nation, and the way this was explored in the series was something Spencer felt particularly moved by. He explains: "It was very beautifully handled. and we had members of the Choctaw Nation helping out production.

Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez in Marvel Studios' Echo, releasing on Hulu and Disney+. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2023. All Rights Reserved.
Echo stars Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez, the deaf anti-hero was first introduced as a villain in Hawkeye but is now taking the spotlight. (Marvel)

"When you do take a story on like this you want the details, because I always say God is in the details when it comes to storytelling and I think they did an amazing job."

Read more: Echo director talks Maya Lopez's fight with Daredevil

Reflecting on the series, Spencer went on: "It's very compelling. I love good storytelling, I love that it's layered and you see her backstory and Alaqua does an amazing job as Maya. She brings a lot to the table for that character, and I feel like when the whole series is out you'll see how amazing she is.

"I liked how they approached [her character arc], there's something to be said about the anti hero and people love that, and I think the story fits right in."Chaske Spencer

Spencer heaped praise on his co-star, saying that Marvel fans will be "blown away by her" and how she has developed her character further, adding: "She's amazing and she has amazing screen presence."

Having been in the entertainment industry for some time, Spencer has seen first hand how the depiction and representation of Native American people has changed over the years, becoming more prevalent in recent years with shows like Reservation Dogs and Lily Gladstone's recent historic win at the Golden Globes for her performance in Killers of the Flower Moon.

Chaske Spencer (Emily Assiran)
Chaske Spencer said he 'liked how [Marvel] approached [Maya's character arc]', adding: 'There's something to be said about the anti hero'. (Emily Assiran)

"I think it's more representation behind the camera and we have a lot more writers in the writing rooms, producers, directors, and I think that's really great," he reflects. "I think that's what we've always wanted to be. I feel pretty good about the representation and how the process is going.

"Nothing changes overnight but I think these battles, these small little wins you get... I think they all accumulate to something very positive."Chaske Spencer

What the actor hopes viewers take away from the forthcoming series is "the storytelling" more so than anything else. "You can't beat a good story," Spencer explains.

Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez in Marvel Studios' Echo, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.
The series sees Maya return to her hometown in Oklahoma where she reconnects with her past while also contending with the consequences of her actions in Hawkeye. (Marvel)

"When you look at the talent in the story itself, people get lost in that and I think that's what holds it together. And you see the other talent of people who are represented, and I think that people have a pretty good, open mind when they just hop in the seat and take the ride, I think they'll be very satisfied."

Read more: Echo used deaf creative team to 'inject authenticity' into new Marvel show

As well as being a landmark series in the MCU for Indigenous representation, Echo also represents the deaf community through Maya and her family members like Bonnie (Devery Jacobs) and Henry, who communicate with her with varying levels of fluency. The Echo cast learned American sign language (ASL) especially for the production, which Spencer enjoyed immensely.

"It could have been a lot more challenging than it was, but they had Douglas Ridloff [the show's ASL Consultant] and they had really good ASL coaches, and Alaqua was there as well," he shares.

Los Angeles, USA. 10th Dec, 2023. Chaske Spencer arrives at the Marvel Studios ECHO Launch Event held at the Regency Village Theatre in Westwood, CA on Monday, January 8, 2023. (Photo By Sthanlee B. Mirador/Sipa USA) Credit: Sipa US/Alamy Live News
Chaske Spencer and the rest of the cast learned ASL for the series, and the actor said he found it an interesting challenge. (Alamy Live News)

"It took some time for me to adjust, but once I started being able to get the muscle memory to it —and we used several of the same words over and over again— that helped me, but it was fun.

"Also, to be able to step into another world which is not mine, it's definitely an experience that I will always cherish and hold."Chaske Spencer

The actor went on: "Every project I'm on, it's never a breeze. Challenges, I think for me, was taking the time and learning the ASL for the character in the dialogue. It works like every other TV show, there's rewrites last minute, that's just how TV shows work so I found that a challenge. But once you get the hang of it, and they repeat words and stuff, it all seems to come together."

Spencer was keen not to give too much away when speaking about the show, joking that being in a Marvel production is like joining a "secret society".

Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin in Marvel Studios' ECHO, releasing on Hulu and Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL.
Spencer was keen not to give too much away, particularly around Vincent D'Onofrio's Kingpin (pictured), joking that being in a Marvel production is like joining a 'secret society'. (Marvel)

If given the chance, though, Spencer would return for a second season as he says: "I've had a fun time playing on these episodes, I have no idea about if [there'll be a] second season, Marvel usually plays that pretty close to the chest, so that's something I would have no idea about.

"But, for this season, I really enjoyed playing him and he's a character I definitely want to keep exploring, we'll see what happens."

Echo is expected to lead into the events of Daredevil: Born Again, a spiritual successor to Netflix's cancelled Daredevil series, and Spencer joked that he wanted to "plead the fifth" when asked about D'Onofrio and Charlie Cox's return as Wilson Fisk and Daredevil, respectively.

But he teased that the show "opens up the roads to a lot of avenues" for Maya in future, adding: "I think the audience, when they see the ending, have to keep an open mind and all roads are open."

Echo premieres in full on Wednesday, 10 January on Disney+.

Watch the trailer for Echo: