Lashana Lynch is ready for takeoff.
The 30-year-old British actress has a key role in the upcoming Captain Marvel as Maria Rambeau, an Air Force fighter pilot. Maria flew alongside Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers — a.k.a. Captain Marvel — for years, and the two women have a deep-rooted friendship.
And while Carol may be the one with superpowers, Maria is a force to be reckoned with too.
“Maria’s got a strength that’s undeniable, in that you don’t feel like you need to help her,” Lynch says. “She is thrown into many a situation in this movie that she’s never been a part of, never seen, never experienced — and she just learns it, immediately. She’s very resilient and very strong.”
Maria is also a single mother to a young daughter named Monica — a name that should set off alarm bells for comic fans.
In Marvel comics, Monica was actually the first female Captain Marvel, following in the footsteps of the original, the Kree alien Mar-Vell. (A lot of heroes have held the name over the years; Carol Danvers didn’t take the name Captain Marvel until 2012, and for decades she was known as Ms. Marvel.)
Monica made her comics debut in 1982 as a New Orleans harbor patrol officer with energy-manipulating abilities. She soon became the first African-American woman to join and eventually lead the Avengers. Since then, she’s ditched the Captain Marvel title and taken the names Pulsar, Spectrum, and most notably Photon — which happens to be Maria Rambeau’s Air Force call sign in the Captain Marvel movie.
It remains to be seen exactly what roles Maria and Monica might play in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Captain Marvel is set in the mid-1990s, so presumably Monica would be an adult during Avengers 4.) But Maria is an important part of Captain Marvel, as one of Carol’s oldest friends and most trusted companions.
“There’s a certain level of female sisterhood that I haven’t seen in a superhero film before, that we have in abundance,” Lynch adds.
Lynch previously starred in the short-lived ABC series Still Star-Crossed, and she’ll next appear in the FX TV adaptation of Y: The Last Man. Captain Marvel, however, is her most high-profile project yet, and she was actually one of the last people cast: DeWanda Wise was originally set to play Maria but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. Lynch was in Los Angeles auditioning for TV pilots when she was invited to test for Captain Marvel, and she found out she got the part while out to dinner with friends.
“I heard ‘congratulations’ and literally just dropped on the ground, crying in sobs of tears,” Lynch says. “My friends were filming me, just jumping up and down.”
But almost immediately after she got the call, her more practical side took over.
“I saw CVS and I went, ‘Guys, I need to get face wipes,’” Lynch recalls. “And [my friends] were like, ‘What?’ And I was like, ‘I need face wipes and I need bin liners. I need trash bags.’ So we went into CVS, and I was like, ‘So, there’s buy-one-get-one-free and there’s a single pack, and I don’t know which one to get….’ And my friend was hitting me, like, ‘Did you just get a freaking life-changing call, just now?! Like, get it together! Get the face wipes, and let’s go have a drink!’”
Like Larson, Lynch prepared for the role by meeting with real Air Force pilots, and she specifically asked if she could shadow pilots who are also mothers. During her training, she flew in a F-16 and got insight into everything from Air Force slang to how to properly put on a flight suit. “I sat in their meeting, and they were talking about all this serious stuff,” Lynch says with a laugh. “I was trying to make notes, but I was also like, ‘Am I allowed to be here? This is, like, confidential. Is this classified?’”
And for Lynch, Captain Marvel marks a milestone in the MCU, both as the first solo female-led movie and as a chance to introduce a multifaceted woman like Maria.
“I, especially after watching Black Panther, want to keep the black community in a place where they trust that every single African-American character in the Marvel universe is going to be represented positively, is going to be represented accurately, and is going to have a real through-line that the black community or people of color will be proud of,” she says.
“I want Maria to be upstanding,” she adds. “I want her to have a voice, I want people to understand her and relate to her, and I want mothers to be proud that there’s a single mother in the MCU.”