Eternals Star On Playing A 7000 Year Old Being In A Child’s Body
Eternals star Lia McHugh describes what it’s like playing a 7,000-year-old being in the body of a child. The upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe movie was co-written and directed by the acclaimed filmmaker Chloé Zhao, whose most recent film, Nomadland, took home Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards. Eternals will premiere as the closing film of the Rome Film Festival later this month, with its wide release scheduled for November 5.
The film centers on the titular race of undying aliens, created by the all-powerful Celestials, as they prepare to defend Earth from their counterparts, the Deviants. The Eternals have spent millennia living amongst humans in secret, with instructions not to interfere in conflicts outside of their set mission, and the events of Avengers: Endgame have finally created the necessary conditions for their foes to emerge. Though the film also explores their origins and long histories on Earth, Eternals predominantly depicts the team reuniting to defend humanity from the coming threat.
At a January, 2020 press visit to the Eternals set attended by SR, McHugh discussed the challenges faced by her character, Sprite, whose physical appearance resembles a 12-year-old child. As opposed to the flashback sequences, when the Eternals are openly revered for their superpowers, McHugh described her character as frustrated with being treated like a kid in the modern world. Sprite’s fellow immortals don’t talk down to her, she said, but her character knows she can still get away with a little childish behavior:
Sprite wants to be an adult and be able to have– like, because if you were thousands of years old in a child body, people would treat you differently. They treat you like a child, and they don’t tell you things, or it’s just stuff like that, where she wants to feel like she’s the adult because she is. […] [The other Eternals] don’t treat me like a kid. But sometimes Sprite acts like a kid because she can get away with it.
Sprite has the ability to create illusions, something highlighted in the Eternals promotional material released so far, and is ironically described by McHugh as the adult of the group. While fans have yet to learn where her character spent most of her 7,000 years on Earth, the actor shares that Sprite’s opinion of humanity is less than flattering, considering them unimpressive and technologically backwards. McHugh hints that her closest on-screen relationships are with Gemma Chan’s Sersi, who shares a sisterly bond with Sprite, and Kumail Nanjiani’s Kingo, towards whom McHugh’s character is playfully antagonistic.
While Marvel fans are eager to see how Eternals‘ ensemble cast of known, talented stars end up coming together, having to embody a character far beyond her age gives the young McHugh faces arguably the most challenging role. Sprite is crucial to selling the illusion of the team’s immortality – fitting, given her abilities – so, regardless of how much screen time she receives, a lot is riding on McHugh’s performance. But with Marvel’s history of casting child actors and Zhao there to guide her, audiences probably don’t have much to worry about with Eternals.