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Why Marvel Studios changed Echo's heritage in the MCU

It's all about authenticity.

Echo TV spot
Image credit: Marvel Studios

Echo director and executive producer Sydney Freeland says she and her team re-imagined the character's Indigeneity to achieve a more authentic backstory.

Overlooked in Variety's coverage of the Echo press event which took place back in November, when the series was first unveiled to the public, there's an interesting conversation with Freeland about how Marvel and her team approached the character and reworked her into a better Native American heroine that avoided the "hodgepodge" imagery and "muddled" backstory of the comic books.

In the original source material, Maya López aka Echo belongs to the Blackfeet tribe, but Freeland and her team weren't happy with the representation of that group and the character's heritage, thus she was made a member of the Choctaw tribe from Oklahoma. Of course, meeting with the Choctaw Nation was a key part of the process: "I had a pitch deck and I pitched them the project... Basically I said, ‘No, no, we’re not here to tell you what we’re going to do... We’re here to create a dialogue so that we can get your input and create a more authentic portrayal of the Choctaw people and culture.’"

Freeland herself had grown up around Native culture, but she also had to learn a lot about the Choctaw in order to accurately represent them. This applied to both the narration and the visual identity of the show: "My production designer had to see it through his eyes, my first AD had to see it through his eyes. How’s he going to populate the background extras?" She went on to explain extensively how other aspects of the show that affected Maya's heritage and the Native elements of the story, as well as the deaf perspective, were crafted, so the entire conversation is well worth a read.

Marvel fans and casual viewers alike will be able to see the results for themselves starting tomorrow, January 9, when the entirety of Echo's five-episode season drops on Disney+ as Marvel Studios' first 2024 release. It'll also mark the long-awaited (and hyped) return of Vincent D'Onofrio as Wilson Fisk aka Kingpin after his surprise MCU debut in 2021's Hawkeye and ahead of next year's Daredevil: Born Again.

While Deadpool 3 is the only Marvel Studios movie set to release this year, more Disney+ shows are coming our way, and 2025 and beyond is looking quite busy, so be sure to check out our rundown of all the upcoming Marvel movies and TV series if you've lost track of the company's ever-changing plans.
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