The miracles wasn’t the first Marvel film to feature a musical number, but director Nia DaCosta’s take on it may be the most memorable. Partway through their first mission together, Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) travel to the planet Aladna to protect its citizens from the Kree. The catch is: Aladneans only speak in song, forcing Captain Marvel to express her feelings in order to communicate. It’s all a bit scary for her, of course, but it’s all over by the time Dar-Benn, The miracles‘ Big Bad comes to wreak havoc on the planet. Unfortunately, that’s what it meant The miracles star Zawe Ashton couldn’t harmonize with her nemesis.
Ashton doesn’t regret her time here much The miracles set, but in an interview with Other way aroundshe admits that missing the film’s big musical number was one of them: “How did I go to that planet and not sing?” As the vengeful Kree warrior with a deep grudge against Captain Marvel, Dar-Benn doesn’t have a great appreciation for lyricism. But Ashton still made an effort to explore her more musical side, even going so far as to pitch a rap interlude to director Nia DaCosta. “I thought, ‘What if Dar-Benn dropped some sizes at this point? Wouldn’t she just have a really sick, I don’t know, Nicki Minaj-esque rap style? I do not understand. Why am I not part of this?’”
Unfortunately, Ashton’s role in it The miracles was less about joining in on the fun and more about ending it. But that doesn’t mean the Velvet Buzzsaw actor did not have a good time on set. Ashton calls her stint in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe “one of the best experiences” of her decades-long career. Sure, she didn’t get the chance to flex her musical muscles like Dar-Benn, but she did get her first taste of real, high-octane action, an opportunity she won’t soon forget.
In an interview with Other way aroundAshton discusses the importance of diversity in film, the joys of playing a villain and the challenges of filming action scenes postpartum.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
You are a great advocate for underrepresented voices in film. What made The miracles an important project for you?
I am more passionate than ever about the idea of legacy in what I do and the things I am committed to. When I first met Nia DaCosta – our director, the youngest-ever director of a Marvel film and the very first Black woman to direct a Marvel film – it wasn’t for Marvel. It was for a small, independent project. And then Covid happened and we weren’t sure if our industry would ever come back.
On the other hand, she contacted me to make this film. My starting point was basically her and the idea that she would represent all these firsts in this universe. And when I discovered the details of the script and the representation that was going to happen across the board… look, it’s not the reason why you’re making a movie, but it’s creating all this meaning while you’re doing it.
There aren’t that many female villains of color either, so just the idea of taking that on felt huge in a way. Because inside me there was a little girl who grew up loving fantasy movies and epic movies growing up. The posters and the films just didn’t have that representation, so there was never any iconography to pull into it. Movies just weren’t made the same way at the time. So it means everything to be a part of this film and finally be able to talk about it.
Nia DaCosta is a huge Marvel nerd. What were the conversations like when you were building your character?
There isn’t much that is really known about Dar-Benn. Dar-Benn doesn’t necessarily have that big of a presence in the comics. I think that’s why it was attractive to Nia and Kevin [Feige] and the whole team. They were able to start over, so to speak, and expand on parts of the backstory that weren’t necessarily already on the page in the comics.
Our conversations were really about, I think, the genesis of Dar-Benn in the position she found herself in. I think in many ways we actually had to start all over again. I mean, the Kree are obviously a huge part of the universe and that was really an entry point. These people who have had to persevere. These people who had to fight. As an actor, I like to take those pieces of information and really combine it with real life examples and dig deep into it and really get human about it.
Then of course Dar-Benn has this rival in perhaps, if not actually, the most powerful person in the universe. Captain Marvel was something huge to really think about and contend with. How can I fight this person? How do I believe I could handle this person? Realistically: how do we approach it? Those were big conversations too.
“Captain Marvel was something to really think about… How do I believe I could handle this person?”
I’m sure the film’s core trio had plenty of time to bond. Were you able to build a bond with Brie, Teyonah and Iman behind the scenes, or were you a bit isolated?
I shot a lot of this film largely in a bubble, because so much of what we shot was separate from the three. I’d been doing it alone for a long time, and then suddenly we were all in the room together and I was like, “Wow.” Especially when the cameras were rolling, there was a different kind of energy, because I was figuring out who they were and who they had been for the last two months or whatever, and they were like, ‘Who’s the bad guy? Who have we been talking about all this time?” So it was really a “life imitating art, imitating life” kind of moment when we were finally all in a scene together.
But I don’t know, I think sometimes when you play a bad guy you have the best time. I joked, I had fun. There was laughter. It was hard to keep a straight face at times. But the chemistry between the three is undeniable and was so great to enjoy, and to want to separate and get between.
Into the battle sequences The miracles are so kinetic and fierce. How was the training for them?
At this point I just get really choked up talking about the stunt team and the journey. It was truly one of the best experiences of my life. I think you, like everyone else who comes into these films, are a blank slate. On my first day in the stunt gym, when we started figuring out who this woman is, how she moves, what her intention is in her movements, I started figuring out how far I could push myself as a person, how far my mental strength will go when it comes to thinking about keeping up these fights during these long shooting days. There were just all these pieces that you put together. It can be so overwhelming when you don’t have the nicest, kind, gentle (ironically) stunt team ever. These are the people who really make these movies.
“I wouldn’t recommend using a harness for three months after giving birth, but I did it anyway.”
I started off really nonsense, and they really gave me a lot of strength and hopefully redeemed me by the end. I definitely did as much as I could. I always transferred to second unit. “Give me more, give me more. As much as I can do, I want to do.” They were girl fights too. There’s something about women fighting women and arguments between women. I think it has a slightly different vibration. And it was exciting to just throw everything at it: don’t hold back, don’t censor, just be as full as possible.
I shot half of the film before I became a mother and the other half after I became a mother. I wouldn’t recommend hanging from a harness for three months postpartum, but I did it anyway. And just as a personal piece of joy and pride for myself. I did it and I was supported, and I was really happy every day. It sounds like a bold lie, but we were happy in that gym.
Do you have the stunt bug now? Looking for more action movies?
Oh my god, yes. I have the bug. You realize that all the people who have been making these films for a long time are so dedicated and so fit. I thought shooting would be like, “turn her around and then hit her.” But there are all these different ways in which you have to commit to physical life. But I’m totally addicted. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll really want to do more. I would love to work with this whole team again, Andy Lister and Liang Yang and just everyone.
I know Dar-Benn’s fate is pretty final, but have you guys talked about her possibly returning via the multiverse?
Everyone who comes into this universe wants to continue because it’s just addictive. You start to love these characters and you start to love the gameplay of them. You can never actually play as an adult. Getting back into that kid mentality with aliens, lasers and space… It’s just so liberating.
I would like to do more. But even if that isn’t the case, this is a beautiful film in terms of what it represents and what it does. If I could do more, it would be great. But I can honestly say, hand on my heart, I lived life to the fullest in this film. Not everything appeared on screen. Of course that never happens. (That’s why you should watch the deleted scenes on the Blu-ray.) But I just felt so happy, and I had a great time, and I’m just very grateful. Anything else would honestly be a bonus at this point.