During the events of Secret Invasion, Cheadle's armor-clad hero was unveiled to have been captured and his body taken over by the alien Skrulls.
According to Secret Invasion director Ali Selim, all evidence "points to" Rhodey sitting in Skrull captivity since Captain America: Civil War, but the exact details of his capture remain a mystery.
But one interesting detail about Cheadle's Skrull identity was the fact that he was actually a she and was being simmed by a female member of the alien race. The MCU actor remarked, "It [was] fun to fold that [Skrull reveal]" into things, as he got to play this new version of his longtime character.
The Reason for Rhodey's Gender-Swapped Skrull
In a recent interview, Secret Invasion director Ali Selim addressed the thinking that when into gender-swapping Don Cheadle's Rhodey Skrull imitator.
Speaking with Variety, Selim pointed to the subtle differences between Raava (the Skrull that had taken on Rhodey's identity) and Rhodey himself:
"A lot of that is Don Cheadle’s brilliant sense of logic, specificity and acting prowess."
He added the gender-swapped reveal came from early questions during development such as, "Would a Skrull pick a human that had its facial features:"
"The Raava thing was just simply, there was a point in the beginning where we were designing the Skrulls and we made the comment 'Would a Skrull pick a human that had its facial features?' If I looked a little bit like this as a Skrull, why would I go into hiding and find a human like that looked kind of like me?"
The Secret Invasion director said that because of this, they "deviated from that [idea]," making an effort to show Srkulls are "going to pick a completely different race, a different age, and why not a different gender:"
"So, we deviated from that and said, what we have to do is really show that, in a lot of instances, these people are hiding out in a human shell, and they’re going to pick a completely different race, a different age, and why not a different gender? Why couldn’t a female Skrull become a male [human]? And that’s where that came from — let’s just be smart about how they’re going into hiding."
From there, "it was Don Cheadle [filling in] the details" of what that would mean for this character and changing his performance:
"From there, it was Don Cheadle [filling in] the details of what that would mean to him. He’s brilliant."
Was Rhodey's Skrull Reveal Worth It?
While many would agree seeing Don Cheadle play a different kind of James "Rhodey" Rhodes was an exciting prospect as he was revealed to be a Skrull, the results of what actually transpired on-screen were mixed, to say the least.
The promise of Secret Invasion was mind-blowing reveals of familiar characters having secretly been Skrulls for an indeterminate amount of time, but Rhodey's Skrull twist felt a little bizarre.
This wasn't something that was slowly teed up over years and years. Instead, it was dropped at the audience's feet with more questions than there were answers.
It could have been this mind-blowing twist of fate, especially with Raava (a female Skrull) being the one to take over the Avenger.
But given the timeline that was revealed later in the series, this Skrull twist comes off as ill-conceived and an actual disservice to Rhodey as a character, especially considering what he has been through since he was seemingly kidnapped and swapped out with Raava.
Secret Invasion is available to stream now on Disney+.