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One of the more thrilling real-life moments in the history of the MCU came at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, when producer Kevin Feige announced that two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) would be stepping into the Marvel Studios machine to play everyone's favorite daywalking vampire slayer, Blade. Having Blade in the MCU fold at all was a thrilling prospect, and having an actor of Ali's stature embodying him made the news all the more satisfying.
For the last two years, Ali has been slowly preparing to make Blade a reality behind the scenes as the character's next standalone adventure comes together for a future phase of the Marvel Studios master plan. Just a few days ago, though, those preparations took a surprising leap forward with an unexpected, thrilling cameo that marked the character's brief MCU debut.
Spoilers for Eternals ahead!
One of the great pieces of unfinished business lurking in Chloe Zhao's Eternals was the true legacy and drive behind Dane Whitman (Kit Harington), who spends much of the film basically just being Sersi's (Gemma Chan) loyal boyfriend until the very end, when it becomes clear there's some kind of crisis happening and he might need to embrace his family heritage. That heritage just happens to be the magical sword known as the Ebony Blade, and in a post-credits scene for the film we see Dane opening the box where the blade is kept and trying to psych himself up to wield it. Before he can actually touch the sword, though, a voice offscreen asks "Sure you're ready for that, Mr. Whitman?"
That voice belonged to Ali's Blade, marking his first MCU appearance as the character without ever actually appearing on camera or in any kind of costume. Speaking to Empire about the cameo, Ali addressed the strange challenge of trying to get into a character for someone he hadn't actually physically embodied yet, and making his one line really count.
“It was really cool, getting to do that,” he said. “It was scary. Because, you know, you're talking before you're filming it. I'm pretty particular about my choices, like most actors, and so having to make some choices – even with a line, vocally – this early on, it brought up some very real anxieties. And it made the job real. It's like, ‘Okay, this is happening now’, you know, and that's exciting.”
Though it doesn't yet have a firm release date, Ali's Blade film has been moving forward in recent months with some major crew hires that include writer Stacy Ossei-Kuffour and director Bassam Tariq, setting the project up for a production start date in the near future. That means it won't be long before Ali actually does get to put on the costume, pick up the swords, and get to work as the Daywalker. For Ali, who said the production is "getting there," it will be the culmination of years of preparation and waiting, just as it's been for the fans.
“That Marvel world is obviously the biggest in film, and just to get my little introduction to that – starting with the Comic Con a couple years ago, and now the very early stages of stepping into the shoes of that character – it felt special and really cool,” he said. “I’m excited to get going and do more.”