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Captain Marvel's Lashana Lynch on the importance of women like Maria Rambeau on screen
"I would say that her being a fighter pilot along with a single mother is her superhero quality. That is absolutely her superpower," said Lashana Lynch about her character Maria Rambeau in Captain Marvel, the first modern female-led superhero film from Marvel Studios.
Last May, we visited the set of Captain Marvel and sat down with Lynch to find out more about her character Maria Rambeau and the relationship she has with Carol Danvers in the film.
"[Maria and Carol] have that little bit of a slightly unlikely boisterous, yet very loving, deeply loving, caring sister love. They have a sisterhood about them that is really nice to see in a Marvel movie," she explained. "Carol Danvers is someone who is an aunt to my child. Like she is family and that's why her death take such a big effect on [Maria's] life because she actually is her life. They're in a male-orientated environment and industry, and all they have is each other, those female fighter pilots. So yeah, they're extremely close, extremely."
She told us the film starts after Carol has been presumed dead "a long time." "Enough [time] for me to come out of denial and then think that maybe she is alive, and then no, actually she isn't yet years have gone by, and she definitely isn't alive," said Lynch.
But we'll also get to see some hints of what life was like before Carol left.
"You do get touches of moments to see how happy they were before and how happy they made each other," Lynch said. "Because of that, when she comes back, you see why it affected her so much. You see why her death was such a big deal. And imagining my character now being the only female fighter pilot, African American as well, in the Air Force base would have been hell."
Then Carol re-appears in Maria's life, throwing it for a loop and bringing all sorts of new challenges with her. But Lynch says Maria handles it all in stride.
"She has stillness about her, which is so attractive in a woman and in a human being," Lynch notes. "I feel like because of her, work, she doesn't really, she's just doesn't flinch. She really takes new experiences and just makes it work for her. There's some situations that she encounters on the way, throughout the film and she never argues, she never asks questions. She's a bit like me when there's something new, she's like 'Yeah, this is an iPhone. Never seen an iPhone before. I can work it. Yep. Use the buttons, but I'll make it work.' Don't need to ask questions. She just handles herself in a very professional and collected fashion that no one else there has to question her ability. And again, I think that comes from being an African American female fighter pilot, in a white male orientated environment. So she had no choice but to be strong."
However, Carol and Maria's relationship brings out other aspects of Maria as well.
"I think that, the way this story is being told, in the time that it is being told, because we're starting with Carol's entrance into the world, or this new person, I wouldn't say that we necessarily see vulnerability, but we see tenderness, and I think that's warranted and it's enough for the relationship that she has with Carol," Lynch explained. "She almost has to remind Carol who she is, where she came from, and what she represents, who she's about, and the mark that she can now place on the world through this power that she's gained. So for me at this moment in time, I think it's nice to see tenderness, love, care, and handling grief in a very complicated way."
Maria is not only a badass fighter pilot, but she's also a single mother to her daughter Monica, who in the comics even dons the Captain Marvel name for a stint.
"It's just she's strong, she's bold, she's a Black single mother. She doesn't argue about it. She has raised an amazing child and now this child is probably going to turn out to be a superhero because she's been raised by one," said Lynch.
Seeing a character like Maria, who is a black single mother, portrayed in a Marvel movie is important, said Lynch. But she doesn't think it needs to be an explicit conversation in the film.
"We have representation now to hopefully not have to talk about representation in the future, so why do we then have to have a conversation in a film?" she asks. "We're already having it in the industry. We don't need to apologize or explain ourselves with the film. It just is what it is. And also to know that we're flipping the Black single mother idea on its head and being like, oh, she's a fighter pilot and a Black... yes. I'm so glad she's a Black single mother. She don't need a husband. She doesn't need a boyfriend and she doesn't need many males in their life because you've only got one male that's probably the best one, that's her father. Everyone else has been the males at work who have given her a freaking hard time for just existing. So she's all right."
Lynch also spoke about how her role as Maria is an opportunity to provide young kids with representation she didn't have as a kid.
"It is firstly a treat, because Black Panther, I think, just raised everyone's awareness to the fact that we just don't have any black superheroes and our younger generations aren't seen enough of themselves. We’re not being represented, and Marvel took that responsibility and I think for the change in consciousness that is happening in the Black community right now and over the last couple of years, they definitely picked the right time to drop the movie. I think the time really was now," Lynch said. "Whilst I would have loved maybe 10 years ago to have a Black Panther, the world may have rejected it because of social issues, which I guess now we're going backwards. So our social issues are even worse. But because of that, Black Panther needed to be that. Do you know what I mean? So in creating Maria, it made me realize that the younger generation are going to have what I didn't have as a kid, which is seeing themselves on screen. So this will be a classic film for the new generations to come, which is crazy. And also the new normal, which I can't wait to be."
Captain Marvel hits theaters March 8.