The Marvel Cinematic Universe spans time, space and the multiverse, but it's relatively hard to find teenage stars among the ranks. Tom Holland was 19 when he took over as Queens high schooler Peter Parker/Spider-Man in 2015’s Captain America: Civil War, while Iman Vellani was 18 when she won the role of a lifetime — her acting debut — as Jersey City superfan-turned-superhero Kamala Khan in this year’s Disney+ series Ms. Marvel.
And Xochitl Gomez has them both beat. The buoyant Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness breakout was only 14 when she landed that key role as the jean jacket-sporting dimension-hopping America Chavez in May’s superhero-horror hit.
Gomez holds her own against eponymous franchise headliner Benedict Cumberbatch from the opening moments of the film, and plays a significant part in the twisty tale as Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch breaks bad in an attempt to hunt down America to steal her game-changing powers. Gomez’s performance is so sharp and soulful, it’s easy to forget just how young the performer — whose previous credits include The Baby-Sitters Club and Shadow Wolves — is in real life. Especially when you see Gomez, now a sage 16, gracefully fielding questions about LGBTQ+ representation in Marvel movies and turning up on red carpets in support of other MCU ventures.
In a new interview with Yahoo Entertainment, the savvy-beyond-her-years — but still undeniably unjaded — Gomez looks back at her career-altering role in Doctor Strange 2 (now on 4K Ultra HD), geeks out over Holland and Cumberbatch and speculates what the future may hold for America Chavez.
Yahoo Entertainment: What have been some of your favorite reactions to Multiverse of Madness and your performance in it so far?
Xochitl Gomez: I'm just excited that people love America Chavez so much and want to see more of her. That really just makes me happy. But I also just love to see the enthusiasm from the cosplayers who dress up as America, when they fully paint and draw everything from the jacket. And it's just really incredible to see. Some of them look almost exactly like the jacket. I'm like, “Girl, where where’d you get that?” [laughs]
Did you get to keep America’s jacket?
Oh, man. So many people will keep asking me that and I really wish I did. But I was so worried that if I did that, there was gonna be some tracker or something that they embedded into the fabric. Because that jacket is so special. People [at Marvel] had eyes on that jacket. They were like, “That thing’s not going anywhere.” So I was too scared to actually take it.
It's a primo Marvel prop right there.
Yeah. It's like Strange’s cloak. Everyone knows what it looks like.
If you think back to the very beginning of this project, what kind of expectations did you have entering the MCU for the first time — and what did you ultimately find most surprising about the experience of making a Marvel movie?
When I first went into it, I had no clue. I just watched a lot of [behind-the-scenes footage] of other Marvel movies. I was just like trying to get a grasp of [what it was] like, not only looking at the actors, but also looking in the background. How many people are there? What kind of vibe is it? How many cameras are going? Because it’s a whole other thing than just working on The Baby-Sitters Club. It's a whole other level. And it was just kind of, “Whew!” I was just kind of put there. When I got on set, it was pretty crazy. Also, they care so much about [audience] reactions from test screenings. They really care about what people think, because they want to make the best movie for fans. And if something doesn't work, they will change it. They will tweak it. And I've never seen that happen before. When I realized that they did that, I was like, “OK, number one, I really got to bring my A-game to this. Number two, damn, no wonder these movies are so good.” It’s a whole machine.
Were you able to give Kevin Feige and Sam Raimi any feedback about your character?
Yeah, there are a few things where it was mainly how I feel a teenage girl would do certain things, because obviously Kevin Feige isn't a teenage girl [laughs]. But also physical movements and also saying things, maybe little buttons that I would add. But most of that I could on the day I'd ask Sam, because he's very collaborative. That's something that I really love about Sam. He made me feel like I like had permission to be creative and try things. It was fun.
To go back even further for a second. I think America was originally going to make her debut in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Is that true?
I had no idea but apparently it was going to be that way and then things got completely switched and so then they had to get rid of that idea. I would've loved being in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Obviously. That movie was awesome.
But you had no idea.
I had no idea. I actually had no clue about that until that news got leaked. But at that point, the movie already came out, I think.
You might say Xochitl Gomez is a little bit of a Tom Holland fan. pic.twitter.com/wVb32hM2ji
— Kevin Polowy (@djkevlar) July 28, 2022
Have you gotten to meet Tom Holland yet?
[Cocking her head back] Ohhhhhh! Have I? I haven’t.
I feel like you might be a fan from that reaction.
Yes. This is a funny story. He was doing reshoots for Spider-Man: No Way Home literally a couple days before it came out and he was on our lot. I'd known that he was going to be on the lot, but I thought he was coming in earlier than I was coming in. So I was like, “I probably won't see him.” So I get there, I'm hanging out outside my trailer and here comes this black Range Rover. And [there he is] saying goodbye to one of the crew members next to me. And I'm like, “That's, that's Tom Holland. That is Tom Holland!” And I literally started jumping around [after he left] like, “That was Tom Holland! No way, That was Tom Holland!” And someone was like, “I thought he was stopping to say hi to you.” And I was like, “No he doesn't even know I exist. He doesn't know who I am. Are you kidding me?” It was a full freak-out moment.
I bet he does now.
Don't say that. That freaks me out!
Well, you did get to meet Benedict Cumberbatch, obviously. What was your favorite moment with him?
I decided to be a [production assistant] for one of the days on set because they ended up not really needing me that day, they weren't going to get to the shot that I was going to be in. So I was like, “OK, no worries. I'll just kinda hang out here.” And I finished school and was like, “Why not try to be a P.A. for a day?” And so I brought Benedict his lunch. Like I went into the kitchen and prepared his smoothie and everything. And he had the hole with the top that reveals your food, like you’re getting room service in a hotel. … And so I knock on his door and I'm just holding this tray of fancy food. That is the same food I'm eating, but it's just all presented differently. He’s like, “What are you doing here?” I was like, “I have your food and I made your smoothie. So I hope it's super scrumptious and delicious because I made it.”
I don't know how much you can say, but can you tease anything about America’s future in the MCU?
I have no idea. I mean obviously we left off with her at Kamar-taj and she was learning some of the mystic arts, which is very cool because it's nothing like her actual powers. So we see her learning. I think it's also really good that she has Wong by her side because she'll have a little more discipline. And also just hopefully a place to call a home and have a family. But I mean, I can't really ignore the fact that America Chavez’s powers are traveling multiverses and coincidentally with the next chapter of the MCU is called…
The Multiverse Saga.
All I can do is hope. I haven't gotten a call or anything. So I'm just going to say fingers crossed. Hopefully, maybe [we’ll see her again].
Where do you want to see her go from here?
Honestly, anywhere. I'm literally up for anything.
Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness is now on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD.
Watch our full cast interview: