Eternals has some interesting casting behind it, from Angelina Jolie to Korean actor Ma-dong Seouk (or Don Lee). But not many would’ve pegged Brian Tyree Henry to show up in an MCU film, even after he voiced Miles Morales’ father Jefferson in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. As the Eternals’ resident genius Phastos (and one of the first openly queer characters in the MCU proper), Henry found himself reinvigorated at the chance to play a black superhero and someone whose history in the world helped inform his current experiences living today.
During a recent press conference for the film, Henry talked about how the news of black people dying in America in recent years began legitimately affecting his mental health. Because Phastos, like the other Eternals, has a no-interference rule that means they’ve seen humanity at their worst for centuries, Henry connected with his character’s optimism in the world that eventually led to Phastos having a family. “What I really loved the most about Phastos is that through all of that him being Eternal him never being able to die, he still chose love,” he recalled. It’s the renewed faith in humanity that he hopes comes across in the movie: “The heart of humanity is still worth saving. And we can still bind and mend and do everything we need to do love, and that’s what Chloé showed.”
One of the other things that helped Henry was that Marvel didn’t want him to change his body. It’s been a hot topic lately, since fellow co-star Kumail Nanjiani went through quite the transformation to play the bombastic Kingo, and Henry had trepidation about taking the part because of it. But since he didn’t have to change anything about himself, he’s proud about getting a chance to inspire a new generation of fans to see themselves in him. “It’s unlike anything that I’ve ever felt, and so it just triggered me, to be an 11-year-old kid who is watching these superhero movies and not ever seeing anyone like me reflected.”
Marvel’s Eternals releases November 4.