Gemma Chan discusses her upcoming Marvel film “Eternals”, being a British-Asian woman in Hollywood, and more in a new interview with British Vogue.
The actress stars on the cover of the September issue, with the “New Beginnings” edition representing “the energy of the fashion industry going forward.”
Chan says of her lead role as Sersi in “Eternals”, which has been directed by Chloé Zhao: “First of all, I never expected to be back in the MCU,” referencing Kree sniper Minn-Erva, whom she played in 2019’s “Captain Marvel”.
“So that was a surprise. And then to be working with an East Asian female director – I would never have dreamt of that, even just a few years ago.”
Chan continues of her character, “Sersi is not your typical superhero: she’s not necessarily the best fighter, she doesn’t have the most obviously impressive powers. The main thing is she’s an empath.
“She has a connection with humans, and with the world and the earth. That is her strength, so I leant into that.”
Chan stars in the eagerly anticipated film alongside her long-time friend Richard Madden, who plays Ikaris, another superpowered immortal.
“Between us,” Chan shares. “[Sersi] and Ikaris are kind of immortal soulmates. That was a fun thing to play. Over a span of a thousand years, how do you play a normal relationship? The good thing is, Richard and I have known each other for over 10 years.”
The star goes on to talk about her family life, explaining how trying to bring her parents round to her choice of career was a process.
“There’s a way that you can honour the spirit of your ancestors by actually trying to do something different, which I know is a privilege,” she says.
“This is the argument I tried to put to my parents back then, when things were tough: hopefully, you work to make sure the next generation has even more of a chance to do something different and change things for the better for the rest of the community, or the next generation after that. That’s something I feel in my bones. I want a rising tide to lift all boats.”
Chan adds that things are changing slowly, but: “It’s only a fairly recent thing that Asian females have been able to be the protagonists of stories.
“Individual successes are one thing. But structurally, when you look at who can actually get projects green-lit in the U.K., who are in those positions of power, those gatekeeping positions – there aren’t that many Asians. There aren’t many people of colour in those positions.”
Chan shares of standing side by side with others on social causes: “If only Black people care about Black Lives Matter, then nothing’s gonna change. And if only Asians are talking about Stop Asian Hate, nothing is going to change. And it’s only when we stick up for one another, and we stand side by side, that things will shift.”
She says she feels like an “accidental activist,” but that she has to speak up, telling the mag: “Actually, we kind of have a duty to, in a way that our parents perhaps weren’t able to as first-generation immigrants.”
The September issue of British Vogue is available via digital download as well as on newsstands from August 6.