Just as news on Marvel’s upcoming The Eternals movie was slowing down, two big announcements got dropped today. First, we got a report that Marvel is seeking to cast an openly gay or bisexual Asian actor in a lead male role. Soon after, news dropped that South Korean actor Ma Dong-seok has been cast in The Eternals, in an unknown role. Even though the two stories would seem to be connected, Ma Dong-seok does not appear to be playing the gay male lead: he is not openly gay or bisexual (as far as I can tell), and the initial report stated that Marvel is specifically looking at Conrad Ricamora for the gay lead – whose codename, by the way, is “James”, which is how I will refer to this character: “James” is said to be “intellectual, emotional, and has a strong sense of family”. And he’s also supposed to be in his 20’s, apparently, which would rule out Ma Dong-seok, who is forty-eight.
These reports follow news that broke not long ago concerning another casting announcement: Kumail Nanjiani will be joining The Eternals in an unknown role – though speculation has been rampant that he’ll be playing the super-speedy Makkari.
So let’s break it down. First, we have this news that the gay male lead will be played by an Asian actor – so far, the cast is looking really diverse, and that’s fantastic, but who is the gay male lead? Hercules has never been depicted as Asian in the comics, and is not exactly “intellectual”, so he seems an unlikely option at this point – not to mention the fact that Marvel’s go-to option is apparently Conrad Ricamora, whose slim physique doesn’t seem very Herculean (also, isn’t it somewhat paradoxical that the article states that Marvel is looking at actors in their 20’s for the role of “James”, yet Ricamora is 40?). No, at this point, I’m beginning to think Hercules will not be appearing in The Eternals, or, if he does, he won’t be the gay lead. But who else could “James” be? There are no gay characters in The Eternals comics, so it could be pretty much anybody. Perhaps Starfox, the brother of Thanos (very complicated situation: don’t ask), or perhaps he’s actually Makkari, and Nanjiani is playing somebody else? It’s all very confusing.
Then there’s Ma Dong-seok, a name probably unfamiliar to American audiences – this will be his first American film, in fact. My guess is that he will be portraying Zuras, leader of the Eternals, as the actor shares the same sort of large muscular build as the comics character. I suppose it’s possible, though to my mind unlikely, that he could be Hercules. It’s entirely plausible that he’ll also be playing some character we don’t even know yet. The film has been rumored to have five female leads and three male leads – a dauntingly large ensemble cast. It remains to be seen if indie director Chloe Zhao can pull off so huge a project, but I have faith. At the very least, it looks to be quite a diverse film already.