It looks like Marvel is finally going to deliver on its promise to provide substantive LGBTQ representation in its “cinematic universe.”
Actor Haaz Sleiman, who is openly gay, was speaking to LGBTQ media outlet NewNowNext for a profile story when he revealed that he will be portraying the husband of a gay superhero in the studio’s upcoming film, “The Eternals,” slated for a November 2020 release.
Sleiman, 43, has recently garnered attention for his role as a gay Syrian refugee in Apple+ TV’s anthology series “Little America,” and previously made headlines in 2017 when he came out not only as gay but as a “total bottom.”
In the interview, Sleiman mostly talks about his episode of “Little America” and his starring role in the upcoming LGBTQ rom-com, “Breaking Fast,” but in discussing the increased presence of positive role models for queer young people since his own youth, he segues onto the subject of his casting in “The Eternals,” casually dropping the big news.
“I just shot a Marvel film with the first openly gay superhero… I’m married to the gay superhero Phastos (…) and we represent a gay family and have a child.”
Phastos, as previously announced, will be played by Brian Tyree Henry, known for his roles in the FX series “Atlanta” (as the rapper Paper Boy) and in the film “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Henry has not publicly spoken about his own sexuality, but in a trailer for “The Eternals” that debuted at a Comic Con in Brazil in December, he was seen holding the hand of another man, leading to assumptions – now confirmed by Sleiman – that the character was gay.
MCU President Kevin Feige has previously expressed his frustration over the shortage of LGBTQ characters in the franchise’s films, and told an audience in New York last October that “a forthcoming movie” would include LGBTQ representation, after previously announcing plans for queer storylines in both “The Eternals” and the upcoming “Thor: Love and Thunder,” which will reportedly feature Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie character in a relationship with another woman.
The studio’s previous attempts at inclusion, like those made in other Disney-owned franchises, have fallen far short of expectation by remaining vague about the sexuality of the characters in question or relegating the “gay moment” to a brief, blink-and-you-miss-it onscreen reference, this one will feature a same-sex kiss.
According to Sleiman, that won’t be the case in “The Eternals.” Asked by NewNowNext if there will be a kiss between Phastos and his husband, the proud queer Muslim actor, who left his native Lebanon at 21 to escape the country’s oppressive and dangerous homophobia, answers enthusiastically.
“Oh, yeah, absolutely, and it’s a beautiful, very moving kiss,” he discloses. “Everyone cried on set. For me it’s very important to show how loving and beautiful a queer family can be.”
Of his co-star, he says, “Brian Tyree Henry is such a tremendous actor and brought so much beauty into this part, and at one point I saw a child in his eyes, and I think it’s important for the world to be reminded that we in the queer community were all children at one point. We forget that because we’re always depicted as sexual or rebellious. We forget to connect on that human part.”
“The Eternals” depicts a group of superhumans who have obtained their powers through genetic alteration by an alien race known as the Celestials. It features at least eleven super-powered characters, and among the actors are Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Richard Madden, and Kumail Nanjiani.
It will appear in movie theaters on November 6.