It’s time for another Marvel series to join the queue of super-powered stories, but with ‘Echo’, the tone of this plot stands out—and that was powered by its characters, or so, that’s what director Sydney Freeland says.
This new Disney+ series (that will also stream on Hulu) dives into the origin story of Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox) and her time as a crime organization leader for a group hailed as the Tracksuit Mafia. When she ends up at odds with her once honorary uncle and boss, crime lord Wilson Fisk or “Kingpin” (Vincent D’Onofrio), she has to stand her ground in her Oklahoma hometown as she wages war against him.
“I think everything stems from the story,” Freeland explains. “So, what is the character? Where are they coming from? Where are they going? What is the emotion? And so, in our case, we have Maya Lopez, who is in ‘Hawkeye’—she’s introduced as a villain. And you have this whole sort of New York criminal underworld as a jumping-off point.”
‘Echo’ has already been hailed as grittier and darker than your typical Marvel tale. With Maya Lopez, she confronts her biological family’s past in the wake of an adopted family’s betrayal and it fuels the already fierce personality that she has. And Lopez (just like the actress who plays her) also happens to be deaf and wears a prosthetic, but that’s not the crux of the story, it’s merely just part of the character.
“Maya is a deaf indigenous person who has a biological family and an adopted family. She’s trying to reconnect with her family after finding out that her adopted family, her uncle specifically, betrayed her and she’s trying to rediscover a more complicated and deep life that she did live,” Cox says when asked about her character at a global press conference for the series. “So I’m hoping she can learn and we can all learn about how she rediscovered family.”
Much of the action is set in Maya’s rural Oklahoma community of Tamaha, which is reportedly based on a real eastern Oklahoma town formerly in the Choctaw Nation. And a lot of the tone follows a more nuanced POV for this superpowered criminal.
“The fact that she’s a villain, the goal was never to try to turn her into Captain America. In the conversations with Marvel, the response was like, hey, let’s lean into that. Let’s see if we can push it out a little and let’s see how far we can go down that rabbit hole,” Freeland says when talking more about what inspired the feel of ‘Echo’. “And so, really, the tone came from the story and the circumstances of the character.”
The series was announced last year to be part of the new “Marvel Spotlight” banner, meaning shows without direct connections to the larger continuity of the MCU. And it does show a difference when watching.
“I think Marvel is at its best when the storytellers follow the character and let the character kind of lead the dance and lead the journey. And we knew as soon as we cast Alaqua in ‘Hawkeye’ and saw what she did on screen in that show that she would be an incredible character to follow into her journey,” explains Executive Producer Brad Winderbaum.
Winderbaum continued: “You know, ‘Echo’ is a more adult show, it’s our first TV-MA show, but we didn’t set out to make [one]. We set out to make a Maya Lopez show, and this is a character who has a violent past and who’s dealt with some real trauma. She has really difficult decisions to make and ultimately has to confront the people she loves in order to grow and change.”
The EP also noted what that means for the future of Marvel, a brand that continuously has built an empire of stories and characters.
“Marvel is such a big, vast universe. The comics have been called the greatest ongoing story that’s ever been written…Certainly, the longest. And there are so many corners to the universe that are still unexplored,” Winderbaum finishes.
“Maya allowed us to see a corner of the MCU that [we] hadn’t been seen before. And to me, that is the future of Marvel: Being able to tell stories that are unexpected, that operate on the fringe of what we’ve seen before…And [ones that] are standalone, character-focused, and have a unique personality all their own.”
Catch ‘Echo‘ when it premieres on Disney+ and Hulu Jan. 9.