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Marvel Studios' Echo incorporates multiple sign language types in the show, including Plains Indian Sign Language.

It helped shape everything from how the characters interact to how they are filmed.

Screenshot from Echo series
Image credit: Disney+

There are plenty of important traits to Alaqua Cox’s Maya Lopez that we’ve been eager to see portrayed in her upcoming">Disney+ (and Hulu) series, Echo. Her Native American heritage, which wasn’t highlighted much in her first appearance in Hawkeye, seems to be a big focus for the series judging by the first trailers for the show, but we’re equally excited to see how the show handles the use of sign language considering the title character is deaf.

The importance of American Sign Language in Echo doesn’t seem to be lost on the producers, who have reportedly made sure that much of the crew took ASL classes ahead of filming. That knowledge had a direct impact on the way the show was filmed – series director Sydney Freeland explained to Yahoo! News that they needed to get both the face and the signing into the shot. The signing conveys the text of the message while the face conveys the subtext, so getting just one or the other doesn’t tell the full story. This impacted when they could use close ups and how the characters were framed during dialogue in ways that wouldn't impact most shows.

The production had deaf staff in almost every aspect of production.

“We had deaf writers, we had deaf consultants behind the scenes, we have deaf actors,” Freeland explained, going on to describe how ASL is used to add wrinkles to certain characters. Some characters will sign without speaking while others who are less fluent in ASL will speak and sign at the same time. Those closest to Echo will be more fluent and able to communicate with her more effectively."

The production team also used sign language as a way to highlight Lopez’s Native American heritage, according to Devery Jacobs, who plays Bonnie in Echo. She explained in a recent interview that the show incorporated Plains Indian Sign Language, which dates back to pre-colonization, depending on which character is speaking. There is also an effort to give different ASL speakers regional dialects, adding authenticity to the way the language is depicted in the show.

How well all of this used in Echo remains to be seen, since the series doesn’t debut until January 9, 2024 on">Disney+ and Hulu), but it is clear that an effort to make the ASL usage in Echo as authentic as possible. The creators understand how important this aspect is to the character and are making an effort to bring it to the forefront of the show.

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