Marvel Race-Swapped Gemma Chan's Eternals Hero During Production (Photos)

By Russ Milheim Posted:
Eternals, Gemma Chan, Marvel Studios logo

Gemma Chan's Sersi in Marvel Studios' Eternals wasn't always planned to be portrayed as the ethnicity audiences saw on screen.

Chan was among the massive, star-studded cast of the MCU's 2021 cosmic epic. While the movie might not be the most well-rated project the studio has made (it's not the worst!), many still have a soft spot for Chloé Zhao's blockbuster debut.

The project actually gave Chan her second role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Previously, she played Minn-Erva in 2019's Captain Marvel.

Sersi Was Nearly a Different Race in Eternals

The Eternals - The Art of the Movie book just got released, and in it is a new tidbit about Gemma Chan's Sersi that revealed the character's ethnicity could have been completely different.

Visual Development Artist Wesley Burt revealed that some "early talks about Sersi presented her as a woman of color" during the Eternals production's development

"The ensemble cast for 'Eternals' was always indicative of humanity at a global view... Some of the early talks about Sersi presented her as a woman of color. That always sounded great, especially as the lead in a Super Hero movie, so the designs began there from the start."

Newly revealed concept art showcased just that, with Sersi depicted very differently than Chan's Asian heritage.

Sersi, Eternals

Burt went on to note, "Sersi was always presented to [him] as the primary protagonist" who had "the most direct ties to humanity:"

"Sersi was always presented to me as the primary protagonist, the character that audiences would have the most direct ties to humanity through events leading to her ultimate drive to stop the birth of Tiamut. As the script developed, it always had Sersi at the heart of the film and the team. If anything, I wish that we could have seen even more scenes where she interacts with and reflects upon humanity in the different ages."

Sersi, Eternals

Another illustration sees Sersi's deep greens faded, instead favoring a brown-grey aesthetic.

Sersi, Eternals

Eternals director Chloé Zhao elaborated on Sersi as a character, sharing that she "always sees the good in everyone," but "she doesn't always believe in her own abilities:"

"[Sersi is] kind and compassionate... She always sees the good in everyone. But she doesn't always believe in her own abilities. In this film, we're going to watch her go on this journey of self-discovery. For all the indie film fans, this is emotional."

Was Janelle Monáe Almost Sersi?

While one can't say for certain, looking at the above concept art, the illustrations sure do seem like they had actress and musician Janelle Monáe in mind for the role of Sersi at one point. Monáe was most recently seen in Netflix's Glass Onion, and prior to that, she starred in movies like Hidden Figures and Moonlight.

While Gemma Chan did a fine job in the 2021 movie, Monáe would have been an equally interesting choice for the role.

Either way, it's clear that while Eternals might have its failings as a movie, it does a stellar job with diversity and representing a wider scope of humanity. Some would likely argue it's one of the MCU's most diverse and inclusive entries yet.

When it comes to Sersi herself, there's no word on when fans might be able to expect Gemma Chan to return to the MCU. Last audiences saw her she had just been kidnapped by Arishem, the giant celestial who warned that he'd return to judge Earth.

Hopefully, some form of an Eternals sequel is at least being discussed at Marvel Studios. There are plenty of loose ends just waiting to be wrapped up.

Eternals is now streaming on Disney+.

- About The Author: Russ Milheim
Russ Milheim is the Industry Relations Coordinator at The Direct. On top of utilizing his expertise on the many corners of today’s entertainment to cover the latest news and theories, he establishes and maintains communication and relations between the outlet and the many studio and talent representatives.