Marvel superhero Echo, aka Maya Lopez, played by deaf Native American actress Alaqua Cox, signifies progress in a Hollywood that’s still a real challenge for diverse talent, but there’s so much more to ve done, said Marlee Matlin today at the Sundance Film Festival.
The groundbreaking Academy Award winner actor and star of Oscar-winner Coda, which premiered at Sundance in 2020 was appearing on a wide-ranging panel with Randell Park and others at the Park City fest.
Maya appeared sin Disney+ Hawkeye and the streamer is giving her a spinoff series in 2023.
Matlin said producers still balk at paying interpreters or introducing them as an on-screen presence, which is why she says she recently got passed over to play a judge in a courtroom series. “You cannot play deafness as a costume,” she told Sundance panel ‘The Big Conversation: Complicating Representation.’ But “We are moving ahead,” she said. “There are deaf actors out there, there are deaf writers out there, there are deaf directors. I became a director.” The Best Actress Oscar winner for Children of a Lesser God, will make her directorial debut for Sony’s Accused on Fox.
Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, an Inuit filmmaker from the Canadian Arctic, singled out Taika Waititi as a real game changer for indigenous filmmakers. “I can approach people. The Taika effect is real,” she said of the screenwriter and director behind Reservation Dogs, Jojo Rabbit and Thor: Love And Thunder, whose father is Māori. “It’s still harder for people like me to sell shows, but it’s not like ‘What?’”
Randall Park, making his feature directorial debut this Sundance with Shortcomings, said festivals are critical to diverse voices. “Asia American film festivals are a big part of my life and my acting career. I got to play so many different kind of [parts] and got to see them with an audience because of those festivals.”
The actor (Wandavision, Fresh Off The Boat, Always Be My Maybe, upcoming Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom) had hoped change would be faster. When Better Luck Tomorrow played in Sundance, “it was like, this is going to change the industry. It didn’t,” he said of Justin Lin’s 2002 crime drama about a group of over-achieving East Asian American high school seniors.
“I don’t trust the powers that be so much, but I do feel that we’re making a difference, and, over time, my hope is we don’t have to have a panel about representation. Because I have talked about it. It has kind of defined my working career in a lot of ways, and I think it’s great and it’s an honor to be able to represent that. But you know, there is so much more to what we do.”
Zackary Drucker, producer on Transparent, docuseries This Is Me, director of HBO’s The Lady And The Vale, artist and transgender activist has been “brought in as a diversity hire before. I think many people can identify with that experience,” she said. “Once you get your foot in the door, you just kick it wide open and bring everybody in.”
“Work matters, no matter what, by whatever means necessary,” said Drucker. Projects with institutional support or projects “we’re going to make hell or high water without anybody’s support.”